During this forum, we have achieved a lot regarding the relations between Russia and the Arab world. We have advanced considerably. We discussed prospects of economic cooperation and ways of solving the Palestinian problem. By the way, we fully agree with Russia on the issue of Palestine’s problem. We're all for the creation of the state of Palestine. Our positions on Syria have also drawn nearer. Today, everybody wants to achieve a political solution of the Syrian problem. We should stop the bloodshed in Syria.
What is needed for this?
We came to a unanimous opinion that a dialogue between the opposition and the government of Syria is needed. Leader of the opposition Mouaz Al-Khatib put forward this initiative recently, and the League of Arab States fully supports it. As far as the government of Syria is concerned, we rely on the Russian Federation here. It is necessary that Russia persuades the Syrian government to agree to negotiations with the opposition.
We have been informed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria Walid al-Muallem is coming to Moscow next week. And in March the leader of the opposition Mouaz Al-Khatib will arrive in the Russian capital. Initially, they will conduct separate talks with the Russian leadership. And we hope that during these contacts a common platform for the beginning of a direct dialogue will be found.
Does that mean that the dialogue between the Syrian opposition and the government can be held in Moscow?
Of course, why not? If the parties agree to conduct negotiations in Moscow, we will support this idea. In my opinion, it is impossible to hold the talks in Damascus. There were cases, when members of the opposition disappeared on their return to Damascus. It is clear that in such circumstances members of the opposition are afraid to go there.
By the way, we also discussed with Minister Sergei Lavrov the necessity to continue the UN mediation in the person of Lakhdar Brahimi. In our opinion and in the opinion of Russia, he will actively participate in establishing dialogue between the parties.
Why are you so optimistic?
Because we have to do something to stop the bloodshed in Syria! You can't repeat all the time that nothing will come of it. We must work, look for a solution. Now there is a chance to end the war in Syria. We are talking about a chance, an opportunity. The fact that both sides are tired gives us hope. And nobody - neither the opposition, nor the government - can achieve a decisive military superiority. International players also seek a political solution.
Why don't you restore Syria’s membership in the Arab League?
Syria’s membership in the Arab League was not frozen. We suspended the participation of Syrian representatives in the meetings of the organization, in decision-making. This is a big difference. And in order to restore it, it is necessary to comply with the main condition: to stop the bloodshed in Syria. As soon as it happens, the Council of Ministers of the Arab League will convene and solve the problem.
You previously visited Moscow in the Soviet times. What are your impressions today? Is it the same Moscow?
Russia continues to maintain its influence and weight in the international arena. As for my general impressions, Moscow, of course, has changed very much compared to the 70-ies. I took a walk, visited GUM; it is a completely different store than before...
And do you know, what else have I noticed? Russian women have become even more beautiful!
Thank you for the interview, Mr. General Secretary.