Support The Moscow Times!

Russia Urges Syria Opposition to Drop Demand for Assad to Quit

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday urged the Syrian opposition to abandon its precondition that President Bashar Assad step down before any talks can be held on ending the conflict.

Speaking after meeting former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who defected to Jordan last August, Lavrov accused the opposition of disregarding Syrian lives by demanding the immediate removal of Assad.

"The most important thing is stopping the violence immediately. If it is more important to the other side to change the Assad regime, then they want to continue the bloodbath in Syria," Lavrov said in remarks translated from Russian.

Lavrov was rebuffed by Hijab, who said Assad's removal was "the only way out" for there to be a negotiated settlement to the 19-month-old conflict.

"Russia is searching for a political solution in which Bashar Assad stays," he told Arabic language Al-Arabiya television.

Lavrov, whose country is one of Assad's strongest allies, said both the government and the opposition must stick to proposals reached last June in Geneva by world powers. These called for a transitional government in Syria but did not say that Assad must surrender power.

Russia opposed Western and Arab insistence that Assad must quit.

Hijab, the most senior defector to leave Syria since the beginning of the uprising, is playing an increasing role in efforts to come up with a new political structure for the fragmented opposition.

"We told Lavrov frankly that there could be no political solution at all with the presence of Bashar Assad. It would be impossible," he said.

"First Assad and all figures of his regime whose hands have been drenched in blood have to go and then the solution begins," he added.

Russia and China, both permanent Security Council members, have vetoed three Western-backed UN draft resolutions condemning Assad's government for its crackdown on the uprising that began with peaceful demonstrations in March 2011 before turning into an armed revolt. About 32,000 people have been killed.

Related articles:

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more