Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is opposed to any foreign intervention in Syria
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov answers questions during a press conference in Moscow on June 28. Russia has called the upcoming Geneva talks on Syria a "positive step" despite fears that the meeting might not go ahead because of disagreements and Moscow's anger at the absence of Iran. © Kirill Kudryavtsev - AFP/File
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is opposed to any foreign intervention in Syria
AFP
Last updated: June 29, 2012

Russia calls Geneva talks on Syria "positive step"

Russia on Friday called the upcoming Geneva talks on Syria a "positive step" despite fears that the meeting might not go ahead because of disagreements and Moscow's anger at the absence of Iran.

"On the whole, we view the upcoming meeting in Geneva as a positive step in a search for a way to broaden and strengthen the basis of an international consensus," the Russian foreign ministry said in reference to Saturday's meeting.

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is convening the meeting in Geneva to shore up his faltering peace plan, with invitations to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus other key regional players including Turkey.

"It took a lot of hard work to agree the list of the participants," the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that Moscow could not overcome Washington's objections against Tehran's attendance.

"A decision the organiser and chairman of the meeting Kofi Annan had to resort to in these circumstances does not appear optimal in our view," it said.

It stressed that "important players" like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation would also be excluded from the crucial talks.

Moscow also said it still held on to the view that the Syrians themselves should decide the fate of their country, with no foreign mandate for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

It added that the upcoming meeting should agree mechanisms of a ceasefire and simultaneous troop withdrawal by government troops and the armed opposition so that "municipal authorities can attend to acute social problems of the population."

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