Syria crisis: Russia won't pressure Assad, says Lavrov


Sergei Lavrov: "It is not for us to decide who should lead Syria. It is for the Syrians to decide"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says there is "absolutely" no chance of Moscow telling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand down.

He told the BBC that Russia was not in the "regime-change game".

The main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, has long insisted that President Assad must go before any talks take place.

Mr Lavrov is due to visit London next week for talks with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Both countries say the Syrian crisis will top the agenda. Russia has traditionally been a close ally of the Syrian government and is the country's biggest arms supplier.

But while there is agreement that a negotiated settlement is the best way forward, Mr Lavrov told the BBC there was no question of Russia asking President Assad to stand aside.

"I can only say it is not for us to decide who should lead Syria. It is for the Syrians to decide," he said.

Asked if there was any chance of Russia urging President Assad to stand aside, he said: "Absolutely not. You know that we are not in the regime-change game. We are against interference in domestic conflicts."

Mr Lavrov added that this was a point of principle and that, in any case, President Assad has no intention of resigning.

Asked if there was any common ground between Britain and Russia on Syria, Mr Lavrov said: "I don't think we are far apart as far as the eventual goal is concerned. We both want Syria to be united, to be democratic. We both want the Syrian people to choose freely the way they would like to run their country.

"That has been the Russian position... since the crisis started."

Damage in Homs. 7 March 2013 The conflict has caused destruction in large parts of Syria's cities, like here in Homs

Mr Lavrov said he welcomed some of the "constructive elements" in the recent position of the Syrian National Coalition.

"The leader of the coalition has been speaking about his interest in dialogue," Mr Lavrov said.

"The government reiterated its readiness to do the same including with those who are fighting on the ground. I believe we must encourage this trend on both sides."

He said he would be discussing such developments in detail with William Hague.

"Unless we all act in sync, telling the parties we don't want any military solution, that we don't want any further loss of Syrian lives, that we want them to start negotiating in earnest... this crisis will continue and more blood will be shed," he said.

The UN estimates that about 70,000 people have died since the uprising against President Assad began nearly two years ago.

The UN also says about one million Syrians have now fled abroad, and some 2.5 million have been forced from their homes inside the country.

On Thursday the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said Syria's healthcare system had been wrecked by the conflict.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    The Russians are right, remove Assad and the country will disintegrate into tribal factions, events are already proving this and we should not get involved.

    Look back since the 90’s and see what happens to a country when you remove the oppressor and watch Afghanistan once the western troops leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    How about the west stop trying to press Russia to tell Assad to go and start pressurising the terrorists to stop destroying what was a peaceful secular country

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Obama to Assad: We don’t want you to be the dictator/leader of your country anymore! Will you stand down?

    Assad to Obama: No!

    Obama to Assad: Then I will arm and send some nasty Al CAI da killers to murder thousands of innocent men, woman and children who live in your country... err... to protect them from you!

    Who on Gods great earth wrote this script?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Can someone please explain to me why we are supporting the Islamic extremist insurgency known as the FSA?

    What do you think they will do with the country if it falls to them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    It's too much to expect that Russia will show any responsibility.They,together with China,could have stepped in months ago and controlled or removed their puppet dictator and saved tens of thousands of lives.There is also too little action or influence from the Arab world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    "Assad tried (to announce his preparedness to hold elections) and the opposition boycotted, with our support. The opposition continue to avoid peace talks until their demands are met. So who is preventing who?" No one seriously believes Assad would consent to an election without a pre-determined result (namely, himself confirmed as dictator for life).

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    We are looking at giving terrorist arms in Syria wether it be the rebels or the Syrian government because at the end of day there is no way of knowing were these arms go once this conflict is over and some of those involved would not think twice about using the arms against us
    Russian and China are not pushing for change because both have simular controls over there people

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    The Russians will regret not siding with the opposition,or at the very least not showing support and selling arms to Assad!!!

    Those out there making pro Russia/Assad comments should look at what is happening on the ground.

    one million refugees!100,000 deaths and counting!Russia are the ones helping to prop up this despot Assad,not the UK,USA e.t.c.we have not given or sold arms to the opposition

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.


    "A rather disingenuous remark from the Russians: it is Assad who is preventing the Syrian people from choosing freely. Otherwise he'd simply call an election instead of bombing his people."

    Erm, Assad tried that and the opposition boycotted, with our support. The opposition continue to avoid peace talks until their demands are met.

    So who is preventing who?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    So...are we going to be sending arms to the Bahraini & Saudi oppositions too? They could do with some guns, APCs, bit of air cover etc, All in the spirit of democracy and justice, of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Through history countries have gone through civil wars to change things. The only reason to interfere is to have some influence once it's over. Funny how no one has put troops on the ground in Syria yet Lebanon the usual crowd were all over to give Gadhafi a kick in the teeth where he defied the west.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.


    22. powermeerkat

    Tigers don't change their spots, nor their eating habits.
    Should we bear that in mind when considering the actions of the USA?

    It would certainly help world peace if the current lunatic leaders of Iran and North Korea remembered what happened to Imperial Japan when it dared attack USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    How is it that despite Russia's 'flawed' democracy, time and again we see them being able to claim the moral high ground on the world stage?

    We should be ashamed of our government in their foreign policy, and especially roller-coaster hague and his pretence that giving Al-Quaeda body armour and amoured vehicles doesn't constitute military supply... Pull the other one, Billy, it has bells on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Some rather one sided remarks from commentators on this board. You need to read between the lines. It is quite right of the Russians to say they are not in the business of regime change (Assad) but what they will not say is that they are arming and supporting a regime that murders it's own people. If we and others did not support either side then Assad legitimately would be finished by now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    If the UK get involved in Syria it would be the same as if the French had got themselves involved in Northern Ireland & backed the IRA at the height of the troubles there! Somehow I doubt the UK government of the time would have liked that! This is NOT the business of the UK & we should stand well back from it before we make even more worldwide enemies! On top of that the UK can't afford it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    >23 Alas, an election by itself would not solve Syria's problems. It takes a good deal more state building to undo the damage caused by decades of autocratic rule. I hardly think Putin's Russia is the right role model for the Syrians right now. The ME must find its own way; too bad the more peaceful methods of the Arab Spring didn't find fertile ground in Syria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    "If we sell arms and other equipment it should be equally available to both sides."

    So we should supply homicidal Assad regime with weapons which he then ships (as with Russian weapons) to such terrorist outfits as Hezbollah in Lebanon?

    [what do you think IAF has bombed recently: a shipment of oranges?

    And before: not a NK-built nuclear reactor, but an amusement park?]

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    My local council tells me that there is no money to provide a grit bin for my local street!

    However, Mr Hague says there is money to supply equipment to Syrian dissidents (and proxy mercenaries) with arms.

    Let’s get our prioritise right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I understand why Lavrov is not in favour of a regime change: an Islamist state (and that would be the result if Assad steps down) next to Chechnya does not help Russian affairs; I also understand why Britain is trying to topple Assad at any cost: one less obstacle in the race to control the middle east. In the meantime, innocent people are dying and we all seem to be a bit "laissez-faire" about it

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Russia still smarting from losing a few of its personnel in Syria. Of course they were only there on 'holiday' and not to help the Assad regime.

    Russia, Iran/Hezbollah & Syria - what an awful bunch.


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