Top Russian diplomat on problems with USA over Syria conference

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(Interfax – Moscow, May 28, 2013) Russia and the USA have not yet succeeded in aligning their positions on a number of important parameters for an international conference on Syria, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

“There remain issues and aspects of this major international crisis on which the positions of Russia and the USA have not converged,” Ryabkov said in an interview with the Voice of Russia radio station.

“And we cannot go into such events (an international conference on Syria – Interfax) in a situation where the partners and potential participants in the conference are trying to impose on the Syrian people solutions from outside, which includes predetermining the outcome of a transitional period whose parameters have yet to be defined,” Ryabkov stressed.

“We have not yet approached the point where we can say that there is broad international understanding with the USA and other countries regarding the parameters for the international conference on a political settlement in Syria, of which we have been talking for a long time and which Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry discussed in detail in Moscow when the Secretary of State was visiting and subsequently by telephone and in face-to-face meetings,” Ryabkov said.

“Firstly, I cannot say that our American partners clearly understand that there is no alternative to working with the opposition forces in Syria,” he stressed, “so that, firstly, the opposition sends a representative delegation to the conference capable of taking decisions and, secondly, that this delegation is composed in such a way that it will not try to use the conference as a means for removing Bashar Al-Asad from power. That understanding is not there.”

Not only that, Ryabkov said, but there is no agreement on the international line-up. “The so-called Geneva-1 conference on 30 June 2012 was successful but we simply cannot take the next step if Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt are not represented at the next conference. But our partners, unfortunately, are taking a hard line and trying to keep the Iranians out, and this is a mistake because of the influence that Tehran has over the situation in Syria and the influence that it wields in general in the region,” Ryabkov commented.

But he believes that there is a better chance today for working out an acceptable framework for resolving the Syria situation.

“There are more chances now than there were earlier to find a general and acceptable basis for approaching the issue,” the deputy minister said.

“There are dangers and chances of walking into political traps. I will not say who is laying the traps and how. That is a separate issue and basically needs to be examined during the appropriate consultations, conversations and negotiations. But until now we have not had this kind of impetus on the part of the main players and influential external participants in the discussions,” Ryabkov said.

“Nor has there been this kind of impetus for something else, the understanding by all that it is no longer possible to keep the conflict on ice, or rather in its state of bloodshed and rising human tragedy. There must be a really serious political move forward. So something is probably changing, in order to clear the storm clouds from the horizon and shed the first rays of reason among them.”