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INTERNATIONAL >Russia, Turkey split on eve of Syria rebel meet

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Russian FM Lavrov (R), seen here meeting Turkish FM Davutoğlu, says efforts to arm opposition militants in Syria are illegal under international law. REUTERS Photo

Russian FM Lavrov (R), seen here meeting Turkish FM Davutoğlu, says efforts to arm opposition militants in Syria are illegal under international law. REUTERS Photo

Moscow and Ankara are still split on ending the two-year long Syrian crisis ahead of a meeting of the core group of the Friends of Syrian People on April 20 in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, the Turkish side has urged Russia to put pressure on Greek Cyprus to resume negotiations with Turkish Cyprus to find a solution to the island’s division and act more carefully in its offshore oil and gas exploration activities, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Speaking after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday the Friends of Syria grouping of Western and Arab countries opposed to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad undermined dialogue.

“Right now we see this process is making a negative contribution to the (Geneva) decisions,” Lavrov told reporters in Istanbul, along with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu, referring to a 2012 accord among world powers in Geneva aimed at solving the Syria conflict through talks involving all parties. Lavrov came to Istanbul to attend the third meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group, a sub-organ of the Turkish-Russian High Level Cooperation Council. Lavrov’s comments came ahead of a Friends of Syrian People meeting in Istanbul to be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as well as several of his Western and Arab counterparts. Russia is not a member of Friends of Syria mechanism.

“When one party of the conflict is isolated in any mechanism set up to deal with a conflict, this isn’t realistic and we miss the ground for dialogue,” he said, reminding that part of Syrian opposition did not get involved in this mechanism.

“Part of the Syrian opposition was accepted as legal representative of all Syrian people and was given a seat in this mechanism. It was decided in the same way for providing weapons to opposition. We see the efforts of legalizing arm supply and it is against the international law.” Lavrov also warned against any military intervention in Syria, saying that it would only make the situation worse and encourage the spread of radical Islamic groups including al-Qaeda.

Stopping humanitarian crisis priority: Davutoğlu

For his part, Ahmet Davutoğlu said that Turkey have been doing its best by using any methods to prevent humanitarian tragedy in Syria. “Stopping the humanitarian crisis as soon as possible is important for us. We tried to convince [Syrian regime] with bilateral talks, with Arab League and also we carried out negotiations with Russia and Iran. Friends of Syrian People meeting, which brings together almost 100 countries across the world, is one of these mechanisms,” he said. Davutoğlu underlined that developments in Syria have carried out safety risks for Turkey. “Turkey became the most affected country from the two-year Syrian crisis and the slaughter that al-Assad conducts against its people,” he said.

“Both Scud attack against cities on border and Syrian operations that violate our border and possible chaotic situation which will likely to happen after Syrian regime collapse produce security risk for Turkey,” he added.

Top diplomats also discussed the mutual commercial and economic cooperation between Russia and Turkey and future steps to taken toward the goal of increasing the volume of bilateral trade to $100 billion as agreed. The ministers stressed the importance of implementations of the projects such as the construction of nuclear power-plant at the Akkuyu site in southern city of Mersin, the “South Stream” pipeline and the Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline.

April/18/2013

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