MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
INFORMATION AND PRESS DEPARTMENT
Transcript of Remarks and Response to Media Questions by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at Joint Press Conference Following Talks with Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov, Moscow, June 20, 2011
Question: There have been reports recently that a delegation of the Syrian opposition is arriving in Moscow on June 27 to meet with Mikhail Margelov. How could you comment on the plans of the visit? Will not the Syrian opposition take them as a sign of support? Is there any information about who will lead the Syrian delegation?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Speaking in general about what is happening in Syria, I would like to express our deep concern at the continuing clashes and the loss of life. It is enormously regrettable that among the peaceful protesters, quite rightly demanding political liberalization, there are those who prefer to provoke unrest, provoke government forces to use military measures of suppression of such disorders. We regularly discuss these issues with our partners in the Arab world, Europe and the USA.
As far as I can judge, including from my recent telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we have a general understanding of the inadmissibility of playing along with those who want to provoke a situation similar to Libya. Russia will do everything in her power to prevent a slide of events in Syria to the Libya scenario. However, what we can do (and I hope together with all responsible members of the international community, especially those in the region, Europe and the United States) is to call for early implementation in practice of the reforms proclaimed by President of Syria Bashar al-Assad and to urge the opposition not to ignore the offer to discuss the proposed reforms, but to sit down and begin talking.
We are worried that at the recent meeting in Antalya (Turkey), the Syrian opposition said that it would not conduct any negotiation, any dialogue with the Syrian authorities. This is a bad position. It runs absolutely counter to the task of calming the situation. We won’t support it. We’ll work in the opposite direction. This also answers your specific question. We will encourage the Syrian opposition to show its share of responsibility for the country and the people and respond to the steps on reform taken by the authorities, if belatedly. But it needs to sit down and negotiate.
In principle, the contacts that we expect to carry out with the Syrian opposition, reflect our principled line: in any conflict, you can’t isolate anyone; you need to leave the door open for dialogue with all participants of specific events. So we are doing with regard to what is happening in Libya, so we will act with respect to the events in Syria. But I repeat – first and foremost, in terms of encouraging all participants without exception, including the opposition (in this case, the opposition in the first place) toward dialogue and rejection of provocations, of attempts to get the international community to come and with its “punitive sword” help them solve the problem of regime change.