Russia would not pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and welcomes Syrian opposition’s tentative willingness to hold talks with his regime, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.
“We’re not in the regime-change game. We are against interference in domestic conflicts,” Lavrov said in an interview to BBC, transcribed on Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
“It is not for us to decide who should lead Syria. It is for the Syrians to decide,” Lavrov added.
Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria in early 2011, Russia has opposed all foreign attempts to put pressure on Assad, insisting that the crisis – which has evolved into a full-scale civil war – should be resolved by Syrians alone, preferably through political means.
Political dialogue in Syria seemed unlikely, given that the Syrian opposition has made the departure of Assad and his close allies their main demand. But in January, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the leader of the main opposition group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said that the group was willing to consider the possibility of negotiations with the regime.
“I’m glad that the latest discussions and the latest gestures from the opposition, and statements from some of those who support the opposition, hint that they would be prepared to start negotiations with some negotiating team without asking President Assad to step down,” Lavrov said on Thursday.