Putin: President al-Assad confronts foreign gunmen, not Syrian people
During a joint press conference with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, President Putin said that the international community and the US recognized Jabhat al-Nusra, which is key part of the armed opposition, as a terrorist organization.
”Of concern to us is the possibility of political vacuum if decisions are taken to replace the incumbent Syrian government…If Assad goes, a political vacuum will emerge…who will fill that vacuum?”
Putin said that ”During the G8 summit, everybody agreed to convince the parties to the conflict in Syria to sit to the negotiating table in the upcoming international conference in Geneva to find the appropriate solutions for Syria’s future as to realize the Syrians’ aspirations.”
”We should not impose a solution on the Syrian people, but have to create an environment conducive to dialogue,” Putin added.
Putin urged a stop to committing mistakes and unjustified measures in the Middle East, calling for vigilance and valuing the desires and will of the region’s people.
”We have to closely monitor the developments over the past years to realize that the region might spiral out of the international community’s control,” he added.
Putin: What is going on in Syria would not have been possible without sending weapons to ‘opposition’
President Putin called for not playing down the issue of sending weapons to Syria, stressing that ”Russia exports weapons to the legitimate government in Syria according to international agreements and laws.”
Putin said that arming and financing the ‘Syrian opposition’ has been on for a long time, adding ”what is going on in Syria wouldn’t have been possible without sending weapons to the opposition.”
Putin said that at least 600 Russians and Europeans are fighting alongside the opposition, adding that it remains unclear where these arms will end up.
“If the United States … recognizes one of the key Syrian opposition organizations, al-Nusra, as terrorist … how can one deliver arms to those opposition members?” Putin said. “Where will (those weapons) end up? What role will they play?”
Putin said that Western countries cannot clarify the goal of arming the Syrian opposition without knowing its composition.
He pointed out a disagreement between Moscow and Washington on the issue, adding that only the Syrian people can ensure a solution to the crisis and the international community can prepare the ground for an agreement.
Putin also warned against misconstruing differences in positions regarding Syria in the international community in a simplified manner and against portrating them as mere contradictions between the US and Russia.
He explained that Europe and the UN adopted methods to prevent supplying weapons to non-governmental entities, particularly in areas of conflict, and in this issue there are differences in opinions, not just between Russia and the US, but also with the G8 countries, asserting that portraying this issue as Russia on one side and the US on the other is an incorrect oversimplifications of complex international relations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged work for convening the international conference on Syria as it offers a chance for starting a political process there.
Lavrov: Weapons supply to “opposition” by the West is illegitimate
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the talk about setting up a no-fly zone over Syria is not helpful to holding the upcoming international conference in Geneva to discuss finding solutions to the crisis in the country.
“If our goal is the conference, then we must avoid any discussions and, of course, any action designed to establish a no-fly zone. We must avoid confrontational debates and one-sided resolutions in the General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council because all this isn’t helping to create the atmosphere necessary to convene a conference,” Lavrov said in an interview with Associated Press and Bloomberg news agencies on Friday.
“Our Western partners agreed to holding the conference once the government forces started to make headway…They were not even ready to discuss it when many were convinced that the opposition will be taking over Damascus very soon,” he said.
Lavrov went on to say “If they go down the path that some of the opposition leaders are talking about; that is redressing the military balance on the ground prior to going to the conference, this will be catastrophic to diplomatic endeavors, because in this case , this conflict will never come to an end.”
Lavrov stressed that supplying the “Syrian opposition” with weapons by the West is an illegitimate act, adding “We believe this is absolutely illegitimate, and we aren’t going to legitimize it,” and noting that many types of weapons, including portable anti-air weapons, have already been sent to armed groups in Syria according to mass media reports.
He pointed out that Jabhat al-Nusra is a terrorist organization and the possibility of its participation in the international conference on Syria is out of the question, saying “It is not for them to decide whether to take part in the conference or not…They are terrorists, and should be dealt with as such.”
Lavrov noted that the most active armed groups in Syria are the ones affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra, with reports suggesting that members of the “Free Army” are deserting to join Jabhat al-Nusra because it’s equipped and funded better.
Regarding the contract for supplying S-300 missiles to Syria, Lavrov said the contract hasn’t been fulfilled yet, asserting that this contract “is absolutely legal, it’s transparent and it’s fully in line with the international norms and with the Russian export control legislation. Second, the contract hasn’t been yet finalized. Third, the Americans are leaving Patriots after this exercise in Jordan, together with F-16 planes, and no one is asking them not to do this. The region is really full of weapons, including offensive weapons which have been supplied in the past to the countries of the region.”
He asserted that the international conference on Syria may be stalled if the US decides to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, and that the US must decide between the conference or supporting the opposition, adding that US diplomats at the UN and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) are working to push unilateral resolutions that send the wrong messages to the opposition and effectively tell them “don’t go to Geneva, don’t say you are going to negotiate with the regime, soon things will change in your favor.”
“It’s either the conference or the instigation of the opposition not to be flexible. I don’t think it’s possible to do both at the same time,” Lavrov said.
The Russian Foreign Minister warned against making preconditions about the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, describing such demands as unrealistic, noting that the Syrian government voiced readiness to attend the Geneva conference more than once while the opposition didn’t say that they’ll attend without preconditions.
Lavrov said that the western allegations about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities are inconclusive and cannot be used as evidence, adding “we have been told by the Americans, by the French, by the British that they have proofs… What they showed to us is absolutely unconvincing. It’s not based on facts, and it can’t be taken as a proof.”
He also voiced Russia’s desire to learn the fate of the “Syrian opposition members” arrested by Turkish authorities with Sarin gas in their possession, asserting that there have been reports about the use of chemical weapons by the opposition and that a lab was uncovered in Iraq where Sarin gas was being manufactured, but these reports were retracted later.
Zasypkin: Geneva statement is the basis for international conference on Syria
Russia’s ambassador in Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin stressed that the political solution is the best way to solve the crisis in Syria.
After his meeting with the Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister in Beirut, Zasypkin said that there is no alternative for holding the international conference on Syria.
He added that the Geneva communiqué, which is the basis for the conference, stresses the necessity of ending violence and holding dialogue without preconditions.
He said that the communiqué does not stipulate the handover of power to the opposition but forming a “transitional body” by the two sides.
“Arming the Syrian opposition and the calls for imposing no-fly zone over Syria are measures that will hamper the conference,” he said, adding that Russia does not interfere in the Syrian internal affairs but supports the international legitimacy on the Syrian soil, particularly respecting the Syrian sovereignty and finding peaceful solutions to contentious issues.
He highlighted that there are many problems hindering holding the conference such as the delegation that will represent the opposition in the conference.