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Lavrov notes militants stepping up activity in Syria to disrupt Geneva talks

The same thing happened before the recent Astana meeting held on March 14-15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted

MOSCOW, March 22. /TASS/. The growing activities of militants in Syria aim at disrupting the Geneva talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.

"As for the militants’ attempts to raise tensions in Syria by stepping up their military activities and carrying out more terrorist attacks, they are aimed at disrupting or complicating the Geneva talks, there can be no doubt about that," he said.

"The same thing happened before the recent Astana meeting (held on March 14-15) when some external forces did everything possible to prevent the opposition from going to Astana."

"They cited ceasefire violations," Lavrov pointed out. "Though the Astana platform was set up particularly to solve issues concerning the ceasefire and agree on a mechanism for responding to violations."

"So if someone is concerned over ceasefire violations, they should participate in the work aimed at making the necessary decisions," Lavrov said.

He added that he expected that all those, who had been invited, would come to Geneva and all Syrian parties would have a meaningful conversation. "Holding a direct conversation is the only way," the Russian top diplomat noted. "We support the efforts being made by the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura aimed at arranging such dialogue," Lavrov concluded.

It is necessary to ensure participation of all opposition groups in Geneva 

Moscow believes it is necessary to ensure the participation of the Hmeymim and Astana Syrian opposition groups as well as the Kurds in the meeting in Geneva, Lavrov said.

According to Russia’s top diplomat, during Wednesday’s contacts with UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, the parties discussed preparations for the upcoming round and the need to fully comply with the agreements in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions. "We have drawn the attention of (de Mistura - TASS) to the task of ensuring the inclusive nature of the opposition delegation," the minister said. "This stems directly from Resolution 2254 and the June 2012 Geneva Communique the opposition members in the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC) who are trying to usurp the right to represent the entire Syrian opposition like to refer to."

"This is a way towards dead-end, and we urged de Mistura to explain that this is a dead-end. We do the same thing during contacts with our partners in the region and in Europe, which patronize this HNC," the minister noted.

"It is necessary to ensure the participation of not only the Moscow and Cairo groups, but also such structures as the Astana and Hmeymim groups. It is also important to find a solution concerning the Kurds’ involvement in the negotiation process," Lavrov emphasized. "This is not very easy to do. You are aware of Turkey’s stance."

He assured that Moscow will continue searching for a solution to this problem with Turkish partners, including through contacts in Astana. "However, it is impossible to put it (the issue) on the back burner, just as we cannot just say that the Kurds cannot take part in the Geneva process. This is ,too, one of the important tasks facing de Mistura,’ the Russian minister noted.

Ideas generated in Astana

Lavrov has called for using at negotiations in Geneva the ideas regarding Syria’s future constitution that were generated in Astana.

"We proceed from the assumption that the ideas discussed in Astana, including the first steps towards what Syria’s constitution might look like, would help make progress in Geneva," Lavrov said.

Moscow understands Syrian authorities’ unwillingness to meet with de Mistura

The diplomat also said that Moscow understands the Syrian authorities’ unwillingness to meet with the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura but the need for conversation remains.

"We understand the Syrian authorities’ position, it is up to them to decide whether to meet with de Mistura in Damascus or not. However, we believe that the need for conversation remains," Lavrov said.

"Everybody makes mistakes, including international officials, while he has to deal with a very complicated matter, a very difficult conflict. In a situation when mediators are facing pressure from each side as well as some dirty methods, they are prone to be misled," the Russian top diplomat noted.

"However, we respect the Syrian authorities’ decision. We believe that the upcoming talks in Geneva may help the parties reach some positive results and establish direct contacts," Lavrov stressed.

According to earlier reports, the Syrian authorities refused to meet with Staffan de Mistura who had planned to visit the country ahead of the next round of intra-Syrian talks due in Geneva.