Question: I would like to start our conversation from your last international contacts and, first of all, from your meeting with US Secretary of State in Moscow on 7 May. The day after he left Moscow, John Kerry made a statement in Rome that there is no place for President Bashar al-Assad in the new transitional government. There were also statements that the White House had not made its final decision about armament of the opposition and is waiting for the results of the investigation of the use of chemical weapons in SAR to make this decision. We know about the agreements reached between Russia and the USA in Moscow, however, we would still like to understand why we have heard other statements, which do not fit within the framework of the agreements reached the day before, as soon as the US Secretary of State left Moscow.
Sergey Lavrov: I will start from stating that we had very good negotiations, when John Kerry was in Moscow. He had a long conversation with the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, during which they touched upon the topic of Syria and several other international problems along with a detailed discussion of a number of bilateral issues. As to Syria, John Kerry provided the analysis that is very close to what we talk about, when spotting threats as a result of preservation of status quo and stimulation of the inexorable opposition to grab power, solve the problem in a military way. We talk (and John Kerry supported it) about the need to stop bloodshed, start political negotiations according to the logic established in the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, which was signed by almost all key external players affecting the situation in Syria one way or another. John Kerry opted in favour of convention of the next international meeting with participation of the parties to stimulate them to move in the political direction of formation of a transitional governing body based on unanimous consent of SAR Government and all the opposition groups, to make them prepare stable agreements ensuring safety and rights of all the ethnic, religious and other groups in Syria.
We have been advocating for such forum for a sufficiently long time. We proposed to convene Geneva-2 last August. That time our Western partners, Arab participants of the Geneva process and Turkey told that they were not ready yet. Our American, French and British colleagues, Europeans in general, talked in favour of the unity of the opposition on a constructive platform of readiness to negotiations. The National Coalition was created; however,unfortunately, it was formed on an absolutely opposite platform – overthrow of the regime and dismantling of all institutes. The decision of the League of Arab States that the National Coalition is the only representative of the Syrian people and should occupy the place of Syria in LAS did not help either. To that end,the question arises: what about the rest of opposition groups, because the National Coalition is not the only group? There is an external opposition that is not represented in the coalition, there is an internal opposition as well, which has never left Syria and opts for the internal reform of the country.
On this background, we welcome the consent of Americans represented by John Kerry to the concept of holding the conference without preconditions (no preconditions were formulated in things we have coordinated with our US colleague). The President of Russia Vladimir Putin supported the idea expressed by the US Secretary of State, and placed me in charge of formulating ideas on paper together with my US colleague, as we did by voicing them at the jointpress-conference. I have agreed with John Kerry that we will secure consent of the governments to the formulated propositions. The President Vladimir Putin is also working with a number of countries, which have to be involved into such conference, but the American party will continue its efforts in uniting the opposition on a platform of support of such approach.
These efforts are continuing. I heard about the statements made by John Kerry in Rome, and about statements of other colleagues of ours. I presume that it is difficult to persuade the opposition. Unlike the Government of Syria, that made a sufficiently positive statement in response to the Russian-American initiative, it has not done it, but was ambiguous by saying that, in fact, it would welcome any initiative, which could stop violence, but Bashar al-Assad should “disappear” first – that is, they expressed again the approaches that have been causes of the deadlock in the Syrian crisis for many months. Therefore, we continue our actions and contacts with many partners. The President Vladimir Putin had a meeting with the UK Prime Minister David Cameron in Sochi some days ago, where they also supported the Russian-American initiative. I know that another meeting of opposition forces attracted to the National Coalition is scheduled in Istanbul in a few days, presumably on 19-20 May. Immediately after that, the National Coordination Committee will hold a meeting of the internal constructive patriotic opposition in Madrid, I think. We will see what approaches will be expressed as a result of these events.
We think that we need to refuse from preconditions, because we need to be realistic rather than because we like or dislike somebody. While realism and taking care of interests of the Syrian people require stopping violence as soon as possible without any preconditions. Any preconditions will only drag on this vicious circle of bloodshed.