BERLIN: Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday slammed “extremists” in the Syrian opposition who he said were blocking the start of dialogue in the war-torn country, ahead of talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Hours before he was due to meet Kerry, Sergei Lavrov said that recent faint hopes that dialogue was possible between the opposition and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad had dissipated.
“It seems that extremists who bet on an armed solution to the Syrian problem have prevailed in the ranks of the opposition at this time, including the so-called (Syrian) National Coalition, blocking all initiatives that could lead to the start of dialogue,” Lavrov told reporters.
“We’ve been absolutely clear that there needs to be a political transition, and we felt that Russia could play a key role in convincing the regime that there needs to be that political transition,” a State Department official told reporters.
However Kerry is not expecting “a big breakthrough” at the meeting, the official added.
Lavrov said after meeting Syria’s foreign minister Walid Al Muallem in Moscow on Monday that there was “no acceptable alternative to a political solution achieved through agreeing positions of the government and the opposition.”
But, said Lavrov, the Syrian people must decide their fate “without external intervention.”
Lavrov said Washington should lean on the Syrian opposition to drop demands that Assad must leave power before talks can start.
“In our contacts with other countries that can influence the parties in Syria, we have noticed a growing understanding of the need to influence both the government and, first of all, the opposition so that they do not come up with unrealistic requests as preconditions for the start of dialogue,” Lavrov said after talks with Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans.