Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says dialogue with Bashar al-Assad essential

Wednesday 23 January 2013 16.46
Sergei Lavrov ruled out mass evacuation of Russian nationals from Syria
Sergei Lavrov ruled out mass evacuation of Russian nationals from Syria

Russia’s Foreign Minister has warned there can be no peaceful outcome in Syria while opponents of President Bashar al-Assad demand he leaves the country.

Sergei Lavrov's comments signalled no shift in the position of Russia, which says Mr Assad's exit must not be a pre-condition for a deal to end 22 months of violence

"Everything runs up against the opposition members' obsession with the idea of the overthrow of the Assad regime.

"As long as this irreconcilable position remains in force, nothing good will happen, armed action will continue, people will die," Mr Lavrov said.

Russia has been Mr Assad's most powerful foreign protector during the violence that started with a crackdown on protests but has escalated into civil war.

It has vetoed three UN Security Council resolution aimed to push him out or pressure him to end bloodshed.

Earlier, Russia flew 77 of its citizens fleeing the Syrian violence to Moscow via Lebanon but Mr Lavrov said the situation in Syria did not require a mass evacuation of Russian citizens.

Speaking about large-scale naval exercises Russia is holding in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Syria, Mr Lavrov said the naval presence was a positive factor.

"Of course we have no interest in the Mediterranean region becoming even more destabilised. And the presence of our fleet there is undoubtedly a stabilising factor," Mr Lavrov said.

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