MOSCOW- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says a solution to the crisis in Syria should come from the Syrian people, and that Russia will not support any external meddling.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei V. Lavrov, said at a news conference in Moscow on Thursday that Syria needs a period of political transition but reiterated Moscow’s resistance to any plan being imposed by the international community.
“In order to overcome the Syrian crisis and to finally establish stable rights and norms which satisfy all groups in the Syrian population, it is necessary to have a transitional period, this is obvious,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov spoke Thursday ahead of a planned meeting Saturday in Geneva where world powers will discuss international envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.
“The meeting in Geneva was intended to support Kofi Annan's plan and it must set the conditions for the end of violence and the start of an all-Syrian national dialogue, and not pre-determine the contents of this dialogue.” Lavrov said.
Lavrov said that Russia has not agreed to any new version of Annan’s faltering cease-fire plan and criticized diplomats for leaking details of the process to the press.
“There are no agreed-upon plans, work continues on a possible final document,” he said.
He said a meeting of experts will convene in Geneva on Friday.
Lavrov is also due to host talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday in St. Petersburg.
The Russian foreign minister indicated that it was a “mistake” not to invite Syrian ally Iran to the Geneva meeting, calling the country an “influential player” in the situation. Saudi Arabia, a prominent supporter of those opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was also left off the list.
Russia has adamantly opposed any transition plan conditional on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure and has insisted that opposition figures must negotiate with the government if the crisis is to be resolved.
Lavrov reiterated that position in his comments in Thursday “We will not support and cannot support any interference from outside or any imposition of recipes,”
“This also concerns the fate of Bashar al-Assad,” Lavrov said.
Sergei A. Karaganov, the dean of the department of international economics and foreign affairs at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said it would be unrealistic to expect Russia to take an active part in implementing a transition plan.
“Russia is not willing to be responsible for the bloodshed which is continuing there and we will not play an active role in getting Assad out,” Karaganov said.
Karaganov said Russia might agree to support the formation of a coalition government, as long as it did not include figures linked to armed resistance, but added that such a process would have little substance or real effect. “We are involved in the diplomatic process but we are not involved in trying to solve the Syrian problem one way or another,” he said. “Many of our experts believe it is unsolvable.”
Annan, whose peace plan is in danger of collapse; announced in a statement on Wednesday that he was convening an “action group” meeting for influential countries in Geneva on Saturday in an effort to revive the plan.
Annan invited the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council as well as Turkey and representatives of the Arab League. He said Wednesday the “Syria Action Group” will try to agree on principles for a “Syrian-led political transition.”
Annan had made concessions over which countries would attend. Conspicuously absent from the list of the nations invited were Iran, the strongest regional ally of President Assad, and Saudi Arabia, a prominent supporter of President al-Assad’s enemies.
Annan, who had said he wanted the Iranians to be part of such a meeting, offered no explanation for why they were not invited. Asked about it later, the chief United Nations spokesman, Martin Nesirky, told reporters in New York that Annan “has been clear about the need for Iran to be part of the solution” and that Annan would brief the Iranians about the outcome of the Geneva meeting.
There was no immediate comment from Iran on its exclusion from the Geneva meeting. But Tehran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, said that Iran supported Annan’s peace plan and that “a very important fact that cannot be ignored by anybody is the influence and constructive role that the Islamic Republic of Iran has in the region.”
“So if some powers do not want to benefit from this influence and constructive role, that’s their problem,” he continued. “And this is another indication of their actually neglecting the realities on the ground.”
The aim of the meeting is to “identify the steps and measures to secure full implementation” of Annan’s six-point plan and to bring “an immediate cessation of violence in all forms,” Annan said in the statement, released at the United Nations’ offices in Geneva.
The meeting will also seek to unite the countries behind proposals for a Syrian-led political transition “that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” the statement said.
The outcome will partly depend on whether the United States and Russia can bridge their differences over Syria. The United States has demanded that Syrian President basher al-Assad step down. Russia, the main military supplier to President al-Assad’s government, has rejected any solution in which political change in Syria is imposed by outside powers.