Jan. 14, 2013 (TSR) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster is no precondition to solve his country’s crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday.

The idea that Assad must exit first was a precondition, “which is not mentioned in the Geneva Communique and cannot be fulfilled,” Lavrov said after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kozhara.

His comments came two days after meeting in Geneva with Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League peace envoy on Syria, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

Assad last week proposed a plan to resolve the crisis which includes a national reconciliation conference, the formation of a new government and an amnesty.

The Syrian opposition has rejected the peace initiative, calling it “empty rhetoric.”

Lavrov described Assad’s initiatives as not “far-reaching,” and appealed for Syrian opposition’s ideas as to “how to enter a dialogue,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Syria has been engulfed in a bloody civil war between opposition forces and government troops since March 2011. According to UN estimates, over 60,000 people have since been killed.
Lavrov also said that Moscow was not going to undertake anything which could lead to “regime change” in Syria.
Some regional players suggested Russia to tell President Bashar al-Assad to leave his position and promised to offer him “safe haven,” Lavrov told the Russia Today TV channel in a December interview.
Russia “was not in the business of regime change,” said the top Russian diplomat, adding he wondered why some players attempted to use Moscow as a postman.

“If President Assad is interested, this must be discussed directly with him,” Lavrov noted.

Meanwhile, he said that Western countries have missed many opportunities to end the armed conflict in Syria, while Russia has made several bids to find a peaceful solution to end the violence.

Lavrov also warned the Western approach to categorize Syrian terrorists into good and bad ones was dangerous.

Lavrov advises Syrian opposition to come up with proposals in response to Assad’s initiatives

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regards as not very far-reaching the proposals of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on organizing a dialog with the opposition but urges opponents to the regime to come up with their own ideas of peaceful settlement.

“President al-Assad put forward his initiatives that are aimed at inviting all opposition figures to dialog,” he said at a press conference following his talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara. “Yes, these initiatives are probably not far-reaching enough. Probably someone will not find them serious but they are proposals. If I were the opposition, I would come up with reply ideas about the way to arrange a dialogue.”

“We are in contact with all opposition groups and when we hear them say that they have decided to fight to a victorious end, what fulfillment of the Geneva communique can we speak of? It says that all foreign players should encourage all Syrian sides to stop the bloodshed and sit down to the negotiating table through appointing delegations of the government and the opposition,\” Lavrov said.

“The delegations should reach consensus about the parameters, contents and duration of the transitional period during which new general elections in Syria would be prepared. In my opinion, this is a fair and honest approach, if all of us, of course, are interested in saving as many lives of ordinary Syrians as possible,” he added.

Lavrov also said that at the Jan. 11 meeting in Geneva of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and UN/LAS special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi the sides agreed that the Syrian crisis threatens the entire region.

“We agree that in this situation the only ones to gain are probably radicals, extremists linked with terrorist groups of the Al-Qaeda type,” Lavrov said.

Source: TSR, Xinhua, Interfax, RT

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