MOSCOW, April 28. /TASS/. Moscow, Tehran and Ankara believe attempts to split Syria on ethnic and religious grounds to be unacceptable, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday following a meeting with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts - Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mevlut Cavusoglu.
"We agreed that attempts to split Syria on ethnic and religious grounds were totally unacceptable," Lavrov said.
"We have stated that we will counter attempts to undermine our joint efforts and pointed out that the Astana process is stable," he said. "We will continue solving important tasks related to de-escalation, easing tensions and reducing the conflict potential. Ceasefire violations continue to happen but we have a mechanism to monitor them and we will seek to overcome this situation, particularly by strengthening trust among the parties ‘on the ground’," Lavrov added.
He pointed out that Saturday’s meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey "comes when developments in Syria are not always positive." "We have already said that the illegal attack on Syria on April 14 that the United States, Great Britain and France carried out before experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had even started their work, caused a setback in efforts to advance the political process," he said.
"However, we are determined to continue these efforts, we agreed on specific steps that our three countries will take individually and together in order to get us all back to the path leading to the implementation of the [UN Security Council] Resolution 2254," Lavrov stressed. "We strongly believe that there is no alternative to political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis based on the Resolution 2254 and recommendations issued by the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi," the Russian top diplomat noted.
Attempts are being made to hinder the peace process in Syria, particularly to prevent the establishment of a constitutional committee, Lavrov said.
"The developments of the recent weeks show that not everyone wants peace to be restored in Syria. Every time hope arises, a strike is carried out on it," Lavrov said. "We have to point to ongoing attempts to prevent dialogue among Syrians and the establishment of a constitutional committee in accordance with decisions made at the Sochi event, which were supported by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, who participated in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi," the Russian top diplomat added.
"It turns out that were create and build, while our counterparts seek to destroy the results of our joint constructive efforts, even violating international law, just like the US, Great Britain and France did when they carried out an attack on Syria on April 14," Lavrov said.
According to him, the trilateral attack "not only significantly raised tensions on the international stage but also considerably damaged the prospects for a political settlement."
Opposition’s demands to change political regime
Syrian opposition’s demands to change the political regime in Damascus complicate the restoration of the Geneva negotiating process, Lavrov said.
"In the context of efforts to revive the Geneva negotiating platform, we consider as extremely destructive some statements made by specific representatives of the external opposition, which set preliminary conditions for the settlement of the Syrian conflict and the switchover to political negotiations," Lavrov said.
"As preliminary conditions, they advance the demands of changing the regime and bringing the Syrian leadership to trial as war criminals," the top Russian diplomat said.
"Such approaches contradict the substance and the form of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and are also openly aimed at maximally complicating the work to resume the negotiating process, considering those breakthrough results that were achieved at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi," Lavrov stated.
War on terror
The war on terrorists who are trying to hide in de-escalation zones in Syria will be uncompromising, Lavrov said.
"The ceasefire must be observed in the de-escalation zones, naturally, except for terrorist groupings, which are trying to hide in these zones and speculate on their status. This struggle against terrorists will be absolutely uncompromising. Those groups of the armed opposition who are patriotically minded must immediately separate themselves from terrorists," Russia’s top diplomat said.
"The UN, which has contacts with all the basic armed groups, with all the main political forces of the Syrian opposition and with those who support and direct the work of these oppositionists, could convey this idea more clearly: you needn't be entangled with terrorists, you needn't create some unions and alliances with them, even if situational," Russia’s top diplomat said.
The foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey are determined to urgently agree further steps within the framework of the Astana process towards a settlement in Syria.
"We agreed to hold this early Astana process meeting at the foreign minister level to discuss the no simple situation in Syria and around it," Lavrov said. " We believe it is necessary to urgently agree collective measures within the framework of the Astana format we created more than a year ago to keep moving Syria towards peace and normalization in these difficult conditions."
"We share a common wish to facilitate this process and hope to discuss the situation that has emerged in Syria and new additional steps that would foster positive trends, including those in the context of decisions made at the second summit of the presidents of Russia [Vladimir Putin], Iran [Hassan Rouhani] and Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdogan], which took place in Ankara. The Astana process is an example of how seemingly insoluble problems can be resolved, provided there is the political will," he said.
The UN may help the Astana process on Syria effectively develop in all areas, Lavrov added.
"The UN was invited to the Astana process when it was launched. Now the UN can do much to make the Astana process effectively develop in all areas," Lavrov said. "Now the UN can do much to make the Astana process effectively develop in all areas," the minister stressed, noting that the main areas of work are de-escalation zones, humanitarian support and political dialogue.
Russia, Iran and Turkey will be working with Damascus and the opposition in providing humanitarian assistance to Syria, Lavrov said.
"Today we confirmed the need for stepping up efforts in providing humanitarian assistance," he said. "We will ensure this aid should be provided in the most effective way. We will be cooperating with the government, the opposition and, of course, with our counterparts at the United Nations, the International Red Cross, the Syrian Red Crescent and other international organizations. It is important to ensure international assistance, including assistance in mine-clearing operations, be provided to the areas that return to peaceful life as a result of our joint efforts without any politicization or any political preconditions put forward."
"We are calling on the UN to avoid being pressured for politicization of humanitarian deliveries and humanitarian help," he said. "And, of course, the UN has no right to play to those who state that help will be provided only to areas controlled by the opposition.
Lavrov noted that Russia has contacts with UN humanitarian bodies and helps them reach agreements with the Syrian government under the norms of international humanitarian law. "We induce our colleagues in Damascus to be more flexible, think constructively, although it is difficult at times, regarding the discriminate approaches of some Western partners that they are observing," the minister stressed.