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Lavrov: Assad’s resignation wasn't discussed at Vienna talks

October 23, 2015, 17:55 UTC+3
The Russian foreign minister has however informed his US, Turkish and Saudi counterparts on the Syrian president's visit to Moscow
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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

VIENNA, October 23 /TASS/. Participants in the Vienna talks did not discuss President al-Assad’s resignation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday after a four-sided meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

"Rumours are already being spread that we are discussing Assad’s future resignation," the Russian minister stressed.

Lavrov noted that Russia’s partners were too much preoccupied with "the personality of the Syrian president."

"But we confirmed our stance. If we seek a regime change and get particularly fixed on the figure of a concrete political leader, we already had that in Iraq and Libya. We know what the end was. Regretfully, the whole thing has not ended yet because those countries are still in deep crisis," Lavrov explained.

"Therefore, our stance is brought down to a very simple formula. It is the Syrian people who should decide on the future of Syria, its president and other politicians but not on the battlefield or by staging uprisings and coups but through a political dialogue," the Russian foreign minister stressed.

Earlier on Friday, Lavrov briefed his colleagues from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on President Assad’s visit to Moscow.

"We told them about Putin’s meeting with al-Assad in Moscow this week and briefed them on some issues on which the two leaders had had a substantiated discussion such as anti-terror struggle and the need to start a pan-national and a pan-Syrian dialogue on political reforms," Lavrov said.

 A two-hour meeting of Russian, US, Saudi Arabian and Turkish foreign ministers Sergey Lavrov, John Kerry, Adel Al-Jubeir and Feridun Sinirlioglu on Syria crisis concluded in Vienna on Friday.

According to Lavrov, the meeting was uneasy but useful, and the participants agreed to support launching a negotiating process in Syria.

"We have common goals, and we reiterated them today. And there are no doubts [that such goals are] to stop the war, to fight more efficiently with terrorists who are threatening to seize this country and to take more vigorous efforts to promote political process on the basis of the principles agreed in the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012," he said.

"We all want the crisis to be settled on the basis of restoring Syria as a territorially integral, sovereign and independent state, a secular state where the rights of all religious and ethnic groups are ensured," Lavrov stressed.

"I know that our French friends advance an initiative to convene a conference to discuss this or that problem, Palestine, or Syria, or anything else," he said. "But if we think that any meeting, any conference, any talks, including the talks between the Russian and Syrian presidents in Moscow, are to yield a result the following morning, we’d better admit that those who think so are oriented towards a public effect but not towards a real result. The Syrian conflict is a long-lasting, bloody and protracted one involving too many players. Patience, the search of compromises, the search for a balance of interests is needed to settle it. But a principle thing is beginning to take shape."

Lavrov said it was necessary to have a representative opposition delegation and the Syrian government sit down at the negotiating table. He reminded that efforts to promote such contacts had already been in focus of the talks on Syria in August. "We have fulfilled our liabilities, our partners are somewhat late but promised today to do it as soon as possible," he added.

"It is vitally important that all our partners today, American, Turkish and Saudi, reiterated commitment to the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012, which has it upright that political reforms of any kind are to be decided in board dialogue representing the entire spectrum of Syrian society, both the government and the opposition, and decisions are to be taken on the basis of mutual consent. This is the key to success," Lavrov stressed.

The diplomat said the Group of mediators on Syria  could comprise a dozen states and structures, including the League of Arab States (LAS) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). 

"The mediation group should not be endlessly expanded," Lavrov said. "I think a dozen plus states and structures could be quite relevant."

"I will certainly mention the LAS and OIC, as what is happening in the Middle East and Northern Africa is not only the regional countries’ problem, not only the problem of Arabs, Turkey and Iran. It’s a problem that worries the entire Islamic world," he said.

Lavrov has also invited the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to join the Russia-Jordan mechanism in Amman.

"At today’s four-sided meeting, I called on US Saudi and Turkish partners to use this opportunity and this mechanism, which can help removing problems, which have so far prevented us from effectively suppressing the IS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups," Lavrov said.

Lavrov is convinced that the Russian president’s initiative will help achieving the assigned task. Putin said that it was necessary to jointly select targets and draw the lists of terrorist organizations on the basis of common criteria; the lists provided by the United Nations Security Council and the national lists of the European Union, the United States and Russia.

"Our partners have been trying to avoid that so far," the Russian foreign minister said.

"It is important not only to jointly select the targets of our common enemy and adversary. It is also necessary to share information on areas controlled by the patriotic opposition in order to help it confront the Islamic State and other terrorists and involve the armed opposition in the political process," Lavrov concluded.

The minister said the cooperation between Russia and the US-led coalition against the Islamic State could help the patriotic opposition in Syria combat terrorists.

"Not only our mutual enemy and mutual aims should be coordinated, but also the regions controlled by the opposition in order to assist it in fighting the Islamic State and other terrorists, as well as to involve it in the political process," Lavrov said following the talks on the Syrian crisis with his US, Saudi and Turkish counterparts in Vienna.

Lavrov noted that a new international meeting on Syria is to be held soon. According to US Secretary of State John Kerry, the ministerial meeting of Russia, US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on Syrian crisis resolution may be held on October 30, and its format may be extended.

The Russian diplomat also stated the necessity of involving Iran and Egypt in future contacts on Syria.

"Of course, many external players, apart from the four that gathered in Vienna, are involved in the Syrian crisis. That is why we called for holding future contacts in a more representative format, which suggests the involvement of a number of regional states, including Iran and Egypt in particular," Lavrov stressed adding that Iran and Egypt could impact the situation in many ways.

"We do not have the slightest desire to create the impression that the four countries that met in Vienna today will solve all issues for the others. First, it is necessary to gather all the Syrians at one table; second, it is necessary to guarantee a representative support group that will unite many more countries than those who met in Vienna today," the Russian foreign minister said.

"We may announce the date of the new meeting soon," Lavrov said following the talks. "We called for holding future contacts in a more representative format, including Iran and Egypt," he said.

"We will keep in touch with our partners," the minister said. "We have mutual interest in making the contacts tighter and more regular."

Fueling of conflict between Shiites, Sunnis inadmissible

The top official stressed that Fueling of an inter-religious conflict between the Shiites and the Sunnis may prove to be highly pernicious for Russia.

"What's happening in the Middle East now is a problem not only for the regional countries and not only or the Arabs, Turkey or Iran," Lavrov said. "It's stirring unrest in the whole Islamic world, particularly in the light of unending provocative attempts to transform this conflict into the one between denominations or even inside them."

"We’ll continue to resist firmly the spread of attempts to fuel this conflict," Lavrov said. "This would be pernicious for Islam and for all the countries, which have Moslem communities. Naturally, this concerns us (Russians) immediately."

Saudi FM says contradictions around Syria linked to dates, necessity of Assad's stepping down

According to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir the only controversy around Syrian peace settlement is linked to the dates and necessity of Bashar al-Assad's stepping down from the post of Syrian President.

The Saudi Arabian minister said after the meeting that the participants in talks on Syria held in Vienna on Friday agreed with the need to settle the Syrian crisis on the basis of the Geneva communique.

"The participants in the meeting agreed with the need to settle the conflict in Syria on the basis of the Geneva communique and build a democratic and united Syria," the Saudi minister stressed.

The diploamats also agreed on the need to fight terrorism in the region.

"We agreed on the need to fight the Islamic State and terrorism in Syria and other countries of the region. We had no difference on this matter," he said.

He also said in this context that consultations were going on and more countries might be embraced in order to understand if consensus could be reached.

Earlier on Friday a number of bilateral and multilateral talks on Syrian crisis resolution between foreign ministers took place in the Austrian capital.

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