Lavrov says Friends of Syria 'negative' for dialogue

Lavrov says Friends of Syria 'negative' for dialogue

ISTANBUL – Agence France-Presse
Lavrov says Friends of Syria negative for dialogue

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu (R) shake hands following a joint news conference at Ciragan Palace in Istanbul April 17, 2013. Daily News photo/ Emrah Gürel

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today said 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, in remarks translated to Turkish from Russian, referring to a 2012 accord among world powers in Geneva aimed at solving the Syria conflict through talks involving all parties.

"When one party is isolated in any mechanism set up to deal with a conflict, we miss the ground for dialogue," he said.

Lavrov's comments came ahead of a key Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul on Saturday to be attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as several of his Western and Arab counterparts. Russia, not a member of Friends of Syria, is viewed as one of Syria's closest allies and has three times blocked UN sanctions against Assad's regime over the conflict, which the United Nations says has left more than 70,000 dead.

Lavrov 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.
"We see Al-Qaeda-related groups struggling against the current regime (in Syria), and that's a very worrying aspect," he said.
"And they are listed as terrorist groups by the United States." Last week, the head of Syria's jihadist Al-Nusra Front pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, in an announcement which is likely to bolster Damascus's argument that it is fighting "terrorists" who want to impose Islamic state.
The West has been wary.
The United States and the European Union are provide non-lethal aid to the rebels, but Britain and France want an EU arms embargo on Syria lifted so they can supply them with weapons.
Lavrov has said such a move would breach international law. In Istanbul, he stressed that Russia would do its best to foster a diplomatic solution.
"In our future deliberations we will try to avoid any measures that focus on military intervention and the isolation of the parties concerned," he said.
"We will focus on establishing a dialogue platform with the participation of all parties involved." He also said he hoped common sense would prevail at Saturday's Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul.