Chance for peace in Syria shouldn’t be missed – Lavrov

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Chance for peace in Syria shouldn’t be missed – Lavrov
Published 21-02-2013, 04:43

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that "he has a feeling that the settlement of the Syrian conflict has finally moved from a dead point”. Both the Syrian government and the opposition have become more inclined to a dialogue, Mr. Lavrov says.

On February 25, Sergey Lavrov will meet with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in Moscow. The two Foreign Ministers will discuss what is needed for the warring sides in Syria to start talks.

Mr. Lavov believes that these talks may start already next week.

"What makes me so optimistic,” he says, "is not only the fact that the warring sides in Syria have become more ready for talks, but also that the approach of several countries that are trying to settle the Syrian conflict to this problem has changed. It is probably too early to call it a breakthrough, but it is obviously a good start.”

"Some time ago, several representatives of both the Syrian government and the opposition totally ruled out the possibility of a dialogue,” Mr. Lavrov continues. "Now, they are not that categorical. Other representatives of the opposition said that they would start talks with the government only if President Bashar al-Assad promises that he would resign. At present, they don’t put forward this condition anymore.”

"Still, the government and the opposition in Syria are still putting forward a number of conditions to each other, saying that otherwise they won’t start talks. The task of the mediator countries is not to let these conditions hamper the start of talks between the warring sides in Syria. Russian officials are constantly meeting with representatives of both the Syrian government and the opposition, trying to persuade the both sides to start talks.”

"When I meet with Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem,” Mr. Lavrov says, "I am going to ask him how he evaluates the current situation in Syria and what steps he suggests for the conflict to be settled.”

"It is also a good sign that the US has promised its help to Russia in its efforts to mediate in talks between the warring sides in Syria,” the Russian Foreign Minister continues. "Last Sunday, I had a phone conversation with the US Secretary of State John Kerry, and he assured me of that.”

"Mr. Kerry agreed with me that in the current situation, there is a good chance to make considerable steps towards peace in Syria, and that this chance should not be missed. We discussed some points concerning how not to make the conditions which the Syrian government and the opposition are putting forward to each other hamper the talks between them. These conditions, first of all, have to do with where these talks should be held and who particularly should represent the government and the opposition. In fact, I don’t find these details very essential, but for those Syrians who are putting forward these conditions, they are probably important.”

During their phone talk, Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry expressed a wish to meet personally for a more detailed discussion in the nearest future. After all, it is more convenient to discuss such important issues during a personal meeting. Besides, the phone talk turned out to be a bit nervous, because, according to a spokesperson for the US State Department Victoria Nuland, it took John Kerry a whole week to get Sergey Lavrov over the phone.

"Now, Ms. Nuland can be happy,” Mr. Lavrov says. "The phone talk did finally take place.”

The personal meeting between Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry will probably take place somewhere between February 24 and March 6, during John Kerry’s tour to several countries – his first tour since he has been appointed the US’s State Secretary. This was announced by the same Ms. Victoria Nuland on Tuesday.

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