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Lavrov says US attempt at ‘regime change’ in Syria failed

The Russian top diplomat says the United States’ attempt to change the political regime in Syria has failed

MOSCOW, August 29. /TASS/. Washington’s efforts to carry out ‘regime change’ in Syria have failed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.

"This is not the first time different US administrations place the task of changing the regimes they dislike above common goals of eradicating terrorism and extremism. This was in Iraq and Libya, and they are trying to do so in Syria, I would even say they tried to do so in Syria and they failed," Lavrov stressed.

Situation in Idlib

Moscow has been maintaining contacts with Washington over the situation in Syria’s Idlib province, including a planned chemical weapons provocation, he said. 

"As for our contacts with the Americans over this matter, we have been maintaining them. [US Secretary of State] Michael Pompeo touched upon this issue when he called me on the phone a few days ago. [US National Security Adviser] John Bolton brought this issue up at the Geneva meeting with [Russian Security Council Secretary] Nikolai Patrushev. The channel established between the militaries is also used to discuss this issue," the Russian top diplomat stressed.

"All talks go in the same manner - we present more and more facts confirming plans to stage a chemical weapons attack in Syria to blame it on the country’s government, while our counterparts claim that it is not true but fail to provide a single fact to back their position," Lavrov said.

According to the Russian foreign minister, the reason behind the planned provocation is the United States’ reluctance to allow the removal of the Jabhat al-Nusra terror group (outlawed in Russia) from the Syrian province of Idlib. "It seems that this issue and the threats that the Syrian government has been facing in this connection are only aimed at preventing the removal of terrorists from the Idlib de-escalation zone," Lavrov noted. "The United States’ aspiration seems to be behind all that, which has been evident for some time. It all began when the Obama administration sought to shield Jabhat al-Nusra at all costs, planning to use it in the fight against the regime - as they call it," Lavrov said.

"This is not the first time various US administrations aimed at changing regimes they dislike above the shared goals of eradicating terrorism and extremism. This was in Iraq and Libya, and they are trying to do so in Syria, I would even say they tried to do so in Syria and they failed," Lavrov stressed.

Moscow considers "such unilateral political games to be counterproductive" and calls for "resolving all the issues facing this region and other regions of the world through collective efforts." "We are open to cooperation with the United States and other western countries, as well as with the countries of the region, in resolving all the regional issues, including the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq," Lavrov stressed. "Let’s not forget the Palestine issue, which has remained unresolved for years, while the United States has been shying away from considering it in a collective format, particularly within the Quartet on the Middle East. It is a regrettable thing that does not help matters," the Russian top diplomat said.

The impending provocation in Syria’s Idlib Governorate that will most likely involve the use of chemical weapons stems from the US striving to avert the expulsion of Jabhat al-Nusra from there, Lavrov added. 

"This issue and the threats made to the Syrian government in connection with it pursue only one goal, namely, to avert an expulsion of terrorists from the Idlib de-escalation zone," Lavrov said. "This began back in the times of the Obama Administration when the Americans sought to deflect blows from Jabhat al-Nusra by hook or by crook in a hope to use it in the struggle with the regime, as they put it.".

Russia hopes that the Western partners will not hamper the anti-terrorist operation against Jabhat al-Nusra.

"Getting back to the subject of assertions on the chemical attacks allegedly plotted by the Syrian government, I hope that the Western partners who are stoking this issue will not connive at provocations and setups nor impede the anti-terrorist operation against Jabhat al-Nusra," Lavrov said. "[Jabhat] al-Nusra is regarded as a terrorist organization both in the UN and the US."

"I hope that our partners will fulfil their obligations in the war on terror," the minister noted.

Syrian constitutional committee

Moscow and Riyadh have a shared approach to forming a Syrian constitutional committee, Lavrov said at a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir.

"Russia and Saudi Arabia have a shared approach to the formation of a Syrian constitutional committee and the launch of talks between the government and the opposition, which should involve civil society members," the Russian top diplomat noted.

"We are particularly grateful to our Saudi friends for the role they played in uniting the Syrian opposition forces and ensuring that members of the Moscow and Cairo group are also engaged," he added.

Lavrov also said that he had informed his Saudi counterpart "about the efforts Russia has been making in coordination with the countries of the region in order to create conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their places of permanent residence in Syria.

"We call on the United Nations and all its agencies to play a more active role in creating conditions for the return of refugees and displaced persons, including the modernization and reconstruction of social and economic infrastructure facilities," the Russian foreign minister stressed.

According to Lavrov, Russia and Saudi Arabia both stand for "finding early solutions to the conflicts in Yemen and Lybia, based on mediation efforts made by United Nations special envoys for these countries."

Participants in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 30, decided to establish a constitutional committee that will work on the country’s new constitution together with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. The full candidate list will comprise 150 people, including 100 representatives of the Syrian government and domestic opposition, as well as 50 members of the foreign-based opposition. The UN envoy suggested that the committee should consist of no more than 50 members.