Interfax: Syrian opposition’s demand that Assad go is unrealistic – Lavrov

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad and Sergei Lavrov

VLADIVOSTOK. Nov 18 (Interfax) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces’ demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go as a precondition for its participation in the Geneva II conference as unrealistic and going against the Geneva communique.

“The opposition, primarily that represented by the National Coalition, said it would not go to the conference. Several days ago they finally said they were willing to go to the conference, although they objected to this before, but not without preconditions. Their precondition is that they be given some guarantees that President Assad will disappear at some stage. This goes against the Geneva communique, which does not envision any preconditions,” Lavrov said on the TV Center television channel on Saturday.

“This is also unrealistic. After all, in order to see what prospects there are for a settlement, it is necessary to sit at the negotiating table, look into each other’s eyes and only then start looking for compromises,” Lavrov said.

“The Geneva communique does not contain any preconditions as to who will be viewed as candidates for future governance bodies of the Syrian Arab Republic. I’d like to repeat that these are issues that only Syrians should resolve,” he said.

Asked whether there are any chances that the Geneva negotiations on Syria would be successful, Lavrov said, “There are such chances, because the Russian-U.S. initiatives are a substantial proposal that an overwhelming majority of countries have accepted and supported.”

At the same time, “there is a very insignificant number of countries, although quite influential in what concerns the Syrian crisis and the situation in the region, which supported this initiative, so to speak, through gritted teeth and are unwilling to facilitate its implementation in practice, to put it mildly,” he said.

“There is a need to work with them as well, because our main goal is to persuade all those who have some doubts, not to mention the opponents, that any settlement that is not based on a consensus between all the Syrian parties, including representatives of the regime, cannot be steady and durable and would anyway be fraught with recurrences of crisis and armed hostilities,” he said.

As for Russia and the Syrian government, the dates of the conference may be announced at any moment, he said.

“But we also understand that those who have more influence on the opposition should ensure its participation in Geneva II, and the understanding of some aspects is growing here. First, the National Coalition still does not represent all the Syrian people, even despite the West’s and the region countries’ commitment to supporting this structure as the only representative of the Syrian people. Therefore, it is important to stimulate dialogue between all opposition groups, and we have favored this from the very start of the Syrian crisis, while our Western regional partners were not really supportive of this,” he said.

He mentioned several national coordinating committees, the Kurdish Supreme Committee, and other groups defending the interests of Kurds in Syria.