Entries in Sergei Lavrov (14)


Moscow Seeks Dialogue to End Syrian Conflict

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russia's top diplomat said on Wednesday that Syria's warring sides run the risk of "mutual destruction" if they don't soon reach a settlement to end their conflict that began in March 2011.

After talks with Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that neither President Bashar al-Assad nor opposition forces will win a military victory.

Over the past two years, more than 70,000 people have died in Syria as al-Assad refuses to cede power to factions he has labeled as "terrorists" influenced by outside agitators.

Moscow remains Damascus' steadfast ally but Russia's patience with al-Assad has run thin.

Lavrov says he and the Arab League will try to broker talks between the two sides, suggesting, "There are signs of positive tendencies, signs of tendencies for dialogue both from the side of the government and the opposition."

One indication that Lavrov might be on to something is the planned visit in March by opposition Syrian National Coalition leader Mouaz al-Khatib.  Until recently, al-Khatib has refused to talk with Moscow because of its ties to al-Assad.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Russia Contends Al-Assad Won't Be Pushed Out of Syria

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Moscow appears unwilling to convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he should forget about trying to hold on to power for the good of his country, which has been embroiled in a nearly two-year-long conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives.

Following his meeting last Saturday with United Nations-Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that Syrian rebels are the ones who should give up hoping that al-Assad will step down, as has been the opposition's wish from the start of the fighting that began in March 2011.

According to Lavrov, al-Assad is firmly entrenched as Syria's leader and "there's no possibility to change his position."

Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that Moscow would not grant al-Assad asylum if he desired it and that his government would not pay "any price" to assure that the Syrian president remains in power.

Despite this, Lavrov's statements suggest that Russia won't take part in any international effort to force al-Assad out of power, essentially a precondition for any resolution of the Syrian conflict.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russia Says It Will Not Seek Syrian President’s Ouster

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thought her meeting last week in Ireland with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss ways to resolve the civil war in Syria would prompt Moscow to push for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, she learned on Sunday that that is not the case.

Russia has been reluctant to get on board with most of the international community in calling for al-Assad to step down, but many felt that recent rebel gains would prompt Moscow to advise its longtime ally it was time to go.

On Sunday, Lavrov dispelled any notion that his country was working to oust al-Assad. 

He told reporters, “We are not conducting any negotiations on the fate of Assad.  All attempts to portray things differently are unscrupulous, even for diplomats of those countries which are known to distort the facts in their favor.”

The statement seems aimed at Western officials and diplomats who have hinted Moscow is ready to help convince Assad to step down.

After her meeting last week with Lavrov, Secretary Clinton told reporters, "We have been trying hard to work with Russia to try to stop the bloodshed in Syria and start a political transition for a post-Assad Syrian future."

U.S. and Russian officials met on Sunday in Geneva with United Nations special envoy Lakhdad Brahimi.  Afterwards, they issued a statement saying the situation in Syria was “bad and getting worse,” but expressed hope that a political solution was “still necessary and still possible.”

The crisis began in March 2011 with Syrians demanding democratic reform.  It has since escalated into a major armed conflict, costing tens of thousands of lives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Worries About Syria Prompt US and Russian Talks

Win McNamee/Getty Images(DUBLIN) -- The U.S. stepped up efforts Thursday to try and reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with her Russian counterpart during a human rights conference in Dublin, Ireland.

Moscow has been reluctant to get on board with most of the international community in calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down even as reports heat up that the Syrian government could be on the verge of using lethal nerve gas on its enemies.

Clinton spoke with both Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as well as United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi about jump-starting a process that might establish a genuine ceasefire after several failed attempts.

Brahimi indicated no major breakthrough occurred between Clinton and Lavrov that could be considered a plan although "we have agreed that the situation is bad and we have agreed that we must continue to work together to see how we can find creative ways of bringing this problem under control and hopefully starting to solve it."

The mini-conference with Brahimi was actually the second time the U.S. and Russia diplomats spoke on Thursday.

Clinton told reporters, "We have been trying hard to work with Russia to try to stop the bloodshed in Syria and start a political transition for a post-Assad Syrian future."

The crisis began in March 2011 with Syrians demanding democratic reform.  It has since escalated into a major armed conflict, costing tens of thousands of lives with Washington now fearing that al-Assad is desperate enough to use deadly chemical weapons to remain in power.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russia Still Resistant to Transitional Government in Syria

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Russia continues to be a thorn in the side of those seeking a quick resolution to the ongoing conflict in Syria.

After talks with the Arab League and Egyptian leaders in Cairo Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Moscow continues to oppose a plan to form a transitional government in Syria that would include the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

Without cooperation from Russia, there is little chance of convincing al-Assad that it would serve his country's interests to step down after nearly 20 months of violence that has cost an estimated 35,000 lives.

Meanwhile, Lavrov also used the opportunity to accuse the West of prolonging the conflict by allegedly arming rebel forces.

The only common ground that Lavrov had with special United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is agreeing that it will take a political solution to stop the fighting.

In another development, Lavrov dismissed earlier reports that Washington and Moscow were in secret talks to end the crisis.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russia Says Its Being Blackmailed into Supporting Sanctions Against Syria

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russia reiterated its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime on Monday by accusing the West of blackmail in trying to get Moscow to support tougher sanctions against Damascus.

Over the past few weeks, there have been signs that Moscow might be losing patience with al-Assad, who has stepped up his military offensive against those who want him to relinquish power amid 16 months of violence that have left an estimated 17,000 people dead.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued a strong condemnation of Western efforts to push the Syrian president and other leaders into accepting a political transition that might end the conflict the International Committee of the Red Cross now terms a civil war.

Lavrov said the attempts of other governments to get Russia to go along with stricter sanctions contain "elements of blackmail."

The foreign minister said if Moscow continues its stance against more penalties, the United Nations would end its observer mission, a possible precursor to military action.

Lavrov added that al-Assad "will not leave power.  And this is not because we are protecting him but because there is a very significant part of the Syrian population behind him."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russia Admits Attack Choppers Aboard Syria-Bound Ship

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Russia has confirmed for the first time that the cargo ship MV Alaed, which is now headed back to Russia, was carrying refurbished Russian attack helicopters and components for an anti-aircraft defense system that were bound for Syria.

"The ship was carrying air defense systems, which can only be used to repel foreign aggression, and not against peaceful demonstrators, and yes -- it was carrying three refurbished helicopters," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the Russian radio station Echo Moskvy.

The Alaed had to turn back earlier this week as it traveled around Scotland after its British insurer pulled its coverage following pressure from the British government because it was believed to be carrying weapons.

The ship is scheduled to arrive Saturday in the Russian port of Murmansk, which is near its far northern border with Finland, where it will drop its Curacao flag and re-register as a Russian ship.

The Mi-25 helicopters were sold to Syria in the waning days of the Soviet Union and had been sent back to Russia for repairs.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained publicly that Russia was sending the aircraft back to Syria despite reports that the Syrian government had stepped up their use in attacks that have killed civilians.

Russia has come under international criticism for continuing its arms sales to Syria despite the increasing violence over the past year. The Kremlin has argued that there is no arms embargo prohibiting such transfers, though that is true in part because Russia has blocked measures that would impose one. It says the weapons it is providing to Syria are only defensive ones that could not be used in a civilian conflict.

In his interview with Ekho Mosky, Lavrov said it was "completely false" to charge that Russia had "delivered helicopters which were used against demonstrators." He said the choppers aboard the Alaed were disassembled. "They need to be rebuilt, taking around three months."

Still, weapons like the Russian air defense systems could deter international intervention, which Russia remains staunchly opposed to.

Syria is one of Russia's biggest arms clients, with existing contracts worth between $5-6 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms transfers.

Russia is also one of the largest arms exporters in the world. On Thursday a Kremlin aide said that Russia expects to sell about $12 billion worth of weapons in 2012, up from $11 billion last year.

Numerous Russian news reports say that Russia is preparing to send at least two navy ships to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia maintains a ramshackle base and refueling depot. The ships are reportedly carrying hundreds of Russian marines, which would secure the base and potentially evacuate Russian citizens from Syria, a sign of the deteriorating security situation in the country. Last weekend the United Nations suspended its monitoring mission in the country because of security concerns.

On Thursday the Russian Foreign Ministry and its embassy in Damascus denied reports that Russia is preparing to evacuate Russian citizens.

On Wednesday the Russian Defense Ministry denied separate Russian news reports that a third ship, from its Baltic Fleet, was also preparing to travel to Syria to aid in the mission.

Russia remains one of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's few remaining backers, and use of the Syrian port of Tartus gives Russia's navy reach into the Mediterranean Sea. Recently, however, the Kremlin has shown signs of impatience with its longtime ally, including reports this week that Russia may finally be willing to help transition Assad from power. Russia has denied that it is shielding Assad. It insists that no foreign power can remove him from power, saying that can only be determined by the Syrian people.

Russia is organizing an international conference of influential countries that aims to find an end to the violence in Syria, which has gone on for over a year and according to the United Nations has claimed over 10,000 lives. RIA Novosti reported on Thursday that the conference would take place on June 30 in Geneva.

The United States has been skeptical of Russia's plans to invite Iran, which it sees more as part of the problem rather than the solution.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


As Syrian Violence Goes On, Russia Warns of Civil War

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The besieged Syrian city of Homs was bombarded by heavy government artillery on Sunday, just a day after an activist group charged President Bashar al-Assad's forces with killing nearly 100 people across the country.

Despite calls by the international community to stop the violence, government forces seem to have actually intensified the onslaught against rebels and civilians that has resulted in an estimated 13,000 deaths over the past 15 months.

The situation in Syria has become so dire that even Russia, a close ally of Damascus, is warning that things are getting worse.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that a threat of "civil war" makes it incumbent on the rest of the world to put pressure on al-Assad and his enemies to end the fighting.

However, Theodore Karasik of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis said Syria is already in the midst of a civil war that “began with the first massacre, and has intensified with the second."

Karasik was referring to the slaughter of more than 108 people in the city of Houla last month and last week's deaths of 78 people in the village of Qubair.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russia Says Syrian Regime ‘Bears Main Responsibility’ for Bloodshed

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russia, the most steadfast ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, on Monday joined the international condemnation of last week's brutal massacre of more than 100 people, most of whom were women and children, laying the “main responsibility” for the continued bloodshed in the 15-month uprising on the government.

“Both sides have obviously had a hand in the deaths of innocent people, including several dozen women and children,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday.  “This area is controlled by the rebels, but it is also surrounded by government troops.”

“The guilt has to be determined objectively,” Lavrov said.  “No one is saying that the government is not guilty, and no one is saying that the armed militants are not guilty.”

In some of Russia’s sharpest criticism yet, Lavrov said the Syrian government “bears the main responsibility for what is going on” by failing to keep its citizens safe.

Conflicting accounts of how Friday's massacre in Houla, a collection of villages in the province of Homs, unfolded make it unclear to determine who is to blame for the killings.  Some anti-government activists said Assad’s forces attacked the villages with artillery after protests on Friday.  Other activists say the majority of the bloodshed came when pro-regime thugs gunned down men in the street and stabbed women and children in their homes.

The Syrian government told a much different story, saying that the army was just fighting back after rebels attacked their bases.

Despite the differing accounts, the massacre in Houla -- the worst single day of bloodshed since a U.N.-brokered ceasefire was supposed to go into effect on April 12 -- led to an outcry from the international community, calling for both sides to lay down their weapons.

“I am personally shocked and horrified by the tragic incident in Houla two days ago, which took so many innocent lives, children, women and men,” U.N. envoy Kofi Annan said Monday when he arrived in Damascus for talks with Assad and Syrian officials.

Annan called on both sides of the conflict to lay down their weapons, saying “this message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russia Denies Sending Anti-Terror Unit to Syria

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russia’s foreign minister has denied news reports that a team of Russian anti-terrorism troops arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus.

At a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the reports “fairy tales” and said the Russian tanker Iman that arrived at the Mediterranean port had a security team on board only to guard against pirate attacks as it transited the Gulf of Aden.

“Like any other civilian support vessel taking part in the counter-piracy operation, this tanker is carrying security units that will not allow pirates to seize this tanker or any other civilian vessel in the Gulf of Aden in the event of an attack,” the minister said, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.

On Monday, two Russian news outlets, Interfax and RIA Novosti, reported that the Iman had on board an anti-terror unit when it docked at Tartus, but did not say what their mission was.  The RIA Novasti report was trumpeted with a banner headline on its Arabic language website.

Russia’s position on Syria appears to have softened slightly this week.  On Monday, Lavrov met with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to discuss humanitarian efforts and endorsed the ICRC’s call for a ceasefire.  A day later, he signaled Moscow’s willingness to cooperate in the United Nations Security Council.

Lavrov said his country was prepared to support a U.N. Security Council resolution as long as it did not include what he called an ultimatum for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Lavrov expressed support for former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s mission to end the violence. 

Russia has vetoed previous attempts to pass a resolution on Syria, saying it does not want a Libya-style military intervention.

“The U.N. Security Council’s appropriate reaction -- be it in the form of a statement or a resolution -- requires at least two conditions.  The [U.N.] Security Council should not approve them as an ultimatum, but it ought to continue working and approve them as a foundation for Annan’s further efforts aimed at securing reconciliation between the Syrians, the government and all opposition groups,” Lavrov said, according to Interfax.

Lavrov also confirmed a date is being negotiated for a visit to Moscow by Annan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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