Informal contacts between Syrian opposition, govt representatives in Moscow may be successful - Lavrov

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Informal contacts between Syrian opposition, govt representatives in Moscow may be successful - Lavrov
Published 16-11-2013, 12:12
Informal contacts between representatives of the Syrian opposition and President Bashar al-Assad's government planned in Moscow will not necessarily bring about a successful result, but this chance cannot be missed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"I don't know how successful this meeting will be, but we are deeply convinced that this is a chance that must not be missed," Lavrov said in an analytical program on the TV Center channel on Saturday.

Moscow expects that representatives of Russia, the US and the UN will be able to agree upon the representation of all strata of Syrian society and all relevant external players at the Geneva II conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"There are quite a lot of problems [with preparations for Geneva II]. However, I am still optimistic, because another preparatory meeting will take place at the end of November between US and Russian experts, in which [Arab League and UN Envoy to Syria] Lakhdar Brahimi will take part and which other UN Security Council permanent members, Arab League members, and Turkey will join later," Lavrov said in an interview shown on the TV Center television channel on Saturday.

Lavrov said he was hopeful that "it would be possible to work out a common approach ensuring representation of all strata of Syrian society on both sides and all external players directly or indirectly affecting the conflicting parties' behavior."

The Russian minister insisted that negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the conflict should be conducted by the Syrians themselves with Brahimi's assistance. However, the international conference will be opened with involvement of external players, "who influence the situation this or that way or bear responsibility for maintaining peace and security."

In particular, he mentioned the UN Security Council permanent members, the Arab League, the EU and Turkey among such.

"We believe this circle should be expanded, because Iran and Saudi Arabia were not present at the first conference last year, while these two countries are currently associated with the main sponsors of the various parties warring with each other in Syria," Lavrov said.

"It is especially important that Iran is viewed as the Shiite leader and Saudi Arabia as the undisputed Sunni leader in Islam," he said.

"Representation of all branches of Islam is fundamentally important, because the Syrian crisis, as well as a lot of other crises in the Middle East, has a pronounced internal Islamic dimension. It is unacceptable to ignore the fact that the split between the Sunnis and the Shiites in Islam poses a colossal threat to security not only in this region but far beyond it," he said.

OPCW adopts Syria chemical arsenal destruction plan

The world's chemical watchdog on Friday adopted a final roadmap for ridding Syria of its arsenal by mid-2014, hours before a deadline expired, a spokesman said. "The plan is adopted," Christian Chartier, a spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said after a meeting of its 41-member Executive Council in The Hague.

Friday was the deadline for the OPCW to agree "destruction milestones" for the more than 1,000 tonnes of dangerous chemicals in Syria, according to the terms of a US-Russian deal that headed off US military strikes on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The talks at OPCW headquarters in The Hague broke off twice before agreement was reached, as delegates thrashed out the final draft.

A team of UN-OPCW inspectors has been on the ground since October checking Syria's weapons and facilities.

Destruction of declared chemical weapons production facilities was completed last month and all chemicals and precursors placed under seal, the OPCW said last month ahead of a November 1 deadline backed by a UN Security Council resolution.

Inspectors are working "in an active war zone, in an extreme security situation," Sigrid Kaag, the joint OPCW-UN mission coordinator, told Friday's OPCW meeting.

The joint Russian-US Syrian chemical weapons disarmament plan was endorsed by the UN Security Council in September to head off military strikes in retaliation for the regime's alleged use of the weapons against its own people after a chemical attack against a Damascus suburb in August left hundreds dead.

Read more: 

Syrian army advances into rebel-held areas

- 'Diplomatic situation is not brilliant for Syrian opposition before Geneva-2 conference' - expert

- 'Syrian opposition is a farce' - expert

- 'It’s an extremely complex situation what’s going on in Syria' - expert

- Destruction of Syrian chemical weapons proceeding actively - Lavrov

 

Voice of Russia

 

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