No Secret US-Russia Talks Over Syria - Lavrov

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No Secret US-Russia Talks Over Syria - Lavrov
Published 6-11-2012, 03:02
The United States and Russia have never held secret discussions about possible regime change in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Cairo on Monday.

"We never hold secret discussions with anyone over the fate of a third-party country, and there was no secret discussion with the US or with anyone else about [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad,” Lavrov said.

The comments arrive amid Lavrov’s visit to Cairo, where Russia’s top diplomat met with Arab League head Nabil Elaraby and joint UN-Arab League mediator on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi as part of another round of talks aimed at solving the ongoing Syrian civil war.

The Assad regime has been locked into a bloody conflict with anti-government rebel forces since March 2011. According to UN estimates, around 35,000 people have been killed since the violence began.

Russia and the West, particularly the United States, have traded accusations over their respective roles in the conflict.

The United States has called for Assad’s ouster and has criticized Russia for allegedly enabling Assad’s violent crackdown by supplying arms to Damascus.

Russia, meanwhile, has slammed the United States’ tacit support of the anti-Assad opposition, claiming it is interfering in the domestic affairs of a foreign state.

Lavrov reiterated that Russian-Syrian military cooperation has allegedly always been aimed at improving Syria’s defense against external threats, and that its arms supply to Damascus currently fulfills a Soviet-era contract.

"Currently, we are fulfilling our earlier commitments, mainly relating to the supply of air defense systems,” Lavrov said. "Such weapons are defensive in nature and do not conflict with international obligations.”

The comments arrive amid persistent international criticism of Russia’s multi-billion-dollar weapons trade with the Bashar al-Assad regime, which since March 2011 has been locked into a bloody conflict with rebels and opposition forces.

The West has accused Moscow of enabling the government’s violent crackdown on what began as a protest movement but has since disintegrated into a protracted civil war.

Most recently, Turkish authorities forced down a Syrian passenger plane en route from Damascus to Moscow in October, alleging the plane was ferrying military cargo.

Lavrov denied those claims, adding that the plane was carrying radar equipment and did not violate any international laws.

Russia announced earlier this year it would suspend new arms sales to Syria until the conflict was settled.

RIA Novosti

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