15 June 2012Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied on Friday that Russia was conducting talks with other nations on an exit plan for Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking in Baghdad after talks with his Iraqi opposite number, Lavrov said: "If it was really said, it was not true. Such discussions are not taking place and could not take place, because this would totally contradict our position."
Moscow hopes the United States will not act in circumvention of the UN on the Syrian issue and that the UN Security Council “will not sanction regime change,” Lavrov said.
The statement came after U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Thursday that talks between Russia and the U.S. on Assad's exit from power were possible. Similar claims were made on Friday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to France Inter.
"The Russians do not support Bashar al-Assad, they are coming to the conclusion he is a tyrant and a killer. But for them it is important who will take his (Assad's) position, in the event he loses power. Discussions are underway about this," Fabius said.
He also said France is considering providing “means of communication” to Syrian rebels, adding, however, that France has not been supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition.
Lavrov said Iran’s participation in an international conference on Syria was essential.
“We believe that the invitation of all potential participants, including Iran, is absolutely necessary, if we all agree to be guided by practical considerations, the aim of mobilizing all the available resources by the international community to end violence [in Syria],” he said.
The date and venue of the international conference on Syria is still under discussion, Lavrov said. Fabius earlier said the conference could take place in Geneva on June 30.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Thursday welcomed, in principle, the Russian suggestion of an international conference on Syria, but warned that Iranian attendance at any such meeting was probably unworkable.
Any such conference “should set out the principles of a political process in Syria, including a plan for political transition in Syria and full implementation of the Annan Plan,” Hague said during a meeting with Lavrov on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference in Kabul.
Hague asked Russia to use its full influence on the Syrian regime to ensure a peaceful resolution of the situation through a political process.
Amnesty International has accused Syria of a “shocking escalation” in unlawful killings, torture, and arbitrary detention, and called for decisive international action to stop attacks on civilians by government forces and militias.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 12,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, most of them civilians.