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Q & A with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov on Syria

July 21, 2012 (TSR) – When Kofi Annan visited Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16-18, there were questions that were asked on the results of the visit. Below are the answers that Russian Foreigm Minister Sergey V. Lavrov provided:

Question: What are the results of the meeting of K. Annan and the President of Russia V.V. Putin? 

S.V. Lavrov: The President confirmed the position of Russia, and you know it well – it is necessary to influence all parties of the conflict. K. Annan agrees. I can not tell how is it transformed at the UN Security Council, because some our partners believe that unilateral sanctions must be applied to Syrian regime. We ask them: “What the result would be and how do you imagine that? For example, the arms embargo had once been applied to Libya, but the opposition still continued to receive arms grossly violating the decision of the UN Security Council. How is it possible to make sure that the opposition does not receive any arms?” There is no answer to that. ?Instead of soothing the opposition, some of our partners incite it to continue the strife. The adoption of UN Security Council resolution, which would unilaterally forbid the government to do anything in response to the opposition’s operations “Damascus Volcano”, “Fight for the Capital”, “Decisive Battle”, means the straight support of the revolutionary movement. If it is about revolution, then the UN has nothing to do with it. We will see, talks continue. But we can not accept the actions and sanctions stated in the Chapter VII of the UN Charter. ?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, meets United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan. Annan was in Moscow, Russia, Monday-Tuesday, July 16-18, 2012. Annan discussed the Syria crisis with Lavrov on Monday, and met with President Putin on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Pool)

Question: How did K. Annan react to the possibility of new resolution adoption on the Chapter VII by the UN Security Council?

S.V. Lavrov: K. Annan does not participate in the process of resolution elabouration. Having organised the meeting in Geneva with the assistance of Russia, he greatly contributed to the preparation of conditions for the UN Security Council to make an equitable decision. At that meeting it was agreed on the document, which states that it is necessary to influence all parties of the conflict. The measures of such influence were determined in good detail. Our western colleagues tried to include the obligations of resolution adoption on Chapter VII and sanctions, but the final text did not comprise anything of that, because Russia and China stated it was unacceptable. That is not because we defend the regime of B. al-Assad, but because it will not give any results. To put pressure on one party means to get involved into the civil war and interfere in the internal affairs of the state. Geneva document is the basis of our resolution, which transparently shows the results of Geneva meeting. The western resolution project obviously tries to redefine these results unilaterally. ?

Question: Do you consider the situation in Syria to be the civil war? ?

S.V. Lavrov: Certainly, people are at war with each other and kill more and more on grounds of confession: the Alawis kill the Sunnis, the Sunnis kill the Alawis, the Christians also have hard times. I have already quoted the provisions of Geneva conventions, based upon which the ICRC concluded – there is an internal armed conflict in Syria. There is no term “civil war” in the international law – there is the term “internal armed conflict”. It means that people of one state are at war with each other being well armed on both parts. ?

Question: Are the Western countries going to gather once more for the meeting of “contact group”? ?

S.V. Lavrov: I do not know yet. We proposed K. Annan to bring the UN Action Group together once more at the level of experts and policy directors, in order to see how the achieved agreements are implemented. We do not understand how ready our western colleagues are for that, because yet they do everything possible for the agreement not to be approved by the UN Security Council. Instead, they try to impose on the UN Security Council to approve what we did not agree upon. But to meet and talk would certainly be useful. ?

Question: Does the Russian project of the UN Security Council resolution have any prospects? ?

S.V. Lavrov: Our project clearly follows the results of Geneva meeting – it supports everything stated in the Final Communiqué. At the same time, it does not have anything unmentioned in Geneva’s final document. ?

Question: How, to your mind, would the situation in Syria develop? ?

S.V. Lavrov: The policy, which is built upon the opposition support, is dead-locked, because B. al-Assad will not step down himself. The calls for him to step down are made from hopelessness. ?Our western partners seem not to know what to do. That is why such, how to say it more polite, an emotional rhetoric occurs: “If only Russia decided to deny support to B. al-Assad, everything would be back in its place”. We ask them: “How do you imagine that? Russia has already stated that we are not supporting the regime, but it is necessary to stop the bloodshed”. As a reply we hear: “No, tell him to step down”. ?In Geneva it was agreed that it is necessary to bring the government and the opposition together and let them decide what the transition period would be like in terms of time and content. Despite that, some insist that the meeting should take place, but B. al-Assad must step down before. We told thousand times that we do not support the regime. And what happens next? ?The Alawis, Christians and other minorities are behind B. al-Assad, because they are concerned about their fate in case if the present armed troops of the Free Syrian Army (add al-Qaedaand other terrorist groups) take over. The minorities simply fear for their survival, for their fate. I believe that these minorities may get into the very bad situation, that is why they place stake on B. al-Assad as on person, who seems to resist the tendency to inter-confessional conflict fomentation. There is no recipe for making the Syrian parties stop shooting and sit down at the negotiation table, except using the influence of all, who in one way or another affects them. ?The West insists that B. al-Assad must firstly withdraw the armed forces from the cities. He made it once, in autumn 2011, when the initiative of the Arab League, which we also supported, was approved. The governmental troops left human settlements and the opposition came in. We suggest making such withdrawal simultaneous. The UN supervisors should say – let us begin with the city X. It could be Hama, Homs, Idlib. First, everyone stops shooting and then leaves the city blocks simultaneously. ?We are asked what comes next: the army can go back to military barracks, but what to do with the gunmen, who fights against it? The UN has different schemes and is quite experienced in demobilisation and reintegration of combatants. It is necessary to develop the schemes of disarmament, which would be parallel to the political process. Then they could be reintegrated into regular police and armed forces. It is necessary to deal with this issue. But that needs efforts, the brainstorming. That is easy to simply say on camera every day that Russia again does not let the world community to settle the situation in Syria. I understand that it heavily influences regular citizens and drums the extremely simplified image of events into their heads. There are no magical solutions. I understand that it is really great to state: “If only Russia said that B. al-Assad reached his end”. But there is no magic stick. ?

Question: How did K. Annan react to the proposal of Russia to meet once more for search of the ways to settle the Syrian crisis?

S.V. Lavrov: He supports this initiative, considers it useful and will talk to other members (of Geneva UN Action Group). We stated once more that it would be right to correct the mistake of not inviting Iran and Saudi Arabia to Geneva.

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