Russia’s foreign minister called upon other leaders to deal with the conflicts, rather than their symptoms in Syria.

Lavrov expressed his confidence that the forthcoming presidency of Russia in the G8 “would create another opportunity to urge the world’s key players to agree on the key rules for conflict resolution.” Photo: RG

Preparations with American counterparts ahead of the second round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva have made good progress, but the Syrian opposition’s demands for “protected humanitarian corridors” remains a problem, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told an editorial board at the Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Nov. 18.

“All this is very similar to long-standing requests for the creation of such corridors, for the creation of no-fly zones, without the consent of Syrian government, so that humanitarian supplies could be delivered via these corridors from the outside,” Lavrov said.

The minister visited the Russian newspaper’s office for a business breakfast, in which he discussed his thoughts on the preparations for the Geneva-2 Peace Conference on Syria, and the new round of talks on the Iran nuclear issue.

He made it clear that he considered such requirements hypocritical. 

“I have a very simple question to the initiators of creating such corridors. You supply weapons and ammunition, and at the same time, you are lamenting that these areas are occupied by the rebels, that the humanitarian supplies do not arrive, and the civilian population keeps suffering. Well then, deliver humanitarian supplies via these corridors,” Lavrov said, adding that, in the opinion of international humanitarian agencies, “at this stage, the major problems are being caused by the militants.”

Despite some progress, the he said there are problems on the part of some Western participants of the process. Lavrov criticized the attempts of some countries “to give responses to symptoms of the conflict the top priority,” for example, “to discuss the issue of sexual violence in the conflict, instead of discussing ways to settle these conflicts.”

This indicated that “the international community allows the continuation of the bloodiest crises, and is ready only to mitigate the humanitarian consequences,” he said.

Lavrov pointed to Russia proposal in 2005 to agree on a list of criteria that had to be observed when dealing with any conflict, which he said set forth fundamental principles. “For example, we proposed that any conflict had to be resolved only on the basis of a national dialogue, involving all political, ethnic and religious groups. There must not be any interference from the outside, territorial integrity must be respected, as well as the sovereignty of the relevant state. And the problems of civilians must always come first.”

Lavrov expressed his confidence that the forthcoming presidency of Russia in the G8 “would create another opportunity to urge the world’s key players to agree on the key rules for conflict resolution.”

In particular, the issue is that one must not cooperate with terrorists, but during the Arab Spring, some countries did so, “guided not by the interests of global and regional security, but by their own geopolitical considerations,” he said.

“Consider Libya, where NATO intervened and provided arms to opponents of Gaddafi’s regime. And now, the opponents of Gaddafi, after they murdered him quite brutally, are creating problems in Mali, Chad and the Central African Republic,” he said.

As for the prospects of participation of the Syrian opposition in the talks, Lavrov expressed a cautious optimism: “We have the feeling that gradually the position of those, who perceived the very idea of political regulation with hostility at first and relied exclusively on a military solution, will become more realistic. At least if you compare the positions held one year ago, then the difference is night and day. So we will continue our work.”

However, the Minister complained that the National Coalition still had no “constructive program for Syria, on the basis of which they would built their election campaigns,” and said they are “just calling for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad.”

According to Mr. Lavrov, there is a chance to have the Geneva-2 held by the end of this year, but a lot will depend on how our Western partners “will do their ‘homework’ to convince the opposition to give up their pre-conditions.”

The Russian minister also spoke about the progress of negotiations on the Iran nuclear issue. He confirmed that there “was a document that was discussed, and there were amendments to this document” in the recent talks in Geneva. Now, this will be the basis for further work that will be resumed on Nov. 20.”

Lavrov praised Tehran’s position in the negotiations, saying the steps Iran is ready to commit to “are very significant and go in the direction of the requirements of the international community, and this is being done at a much faster pace than was expected.”

The minister was quick to rebuff those who criticized the agreement being prepared, and who called it “a historic mistake.”

“First, such an assessment is detached from reality, because Iran in Geneva, as I have already said, was ready to go faster and further than the steps it was urged to make by the group of ‘three plus three’ at the beginning of this year,” he said. “And, secondly, to suspect Russia, America, and other participants of the process, that we will coordinate the documents unprofessionally, missing risks for nonproliferation of nuclear weapons hidden within them, just means not to respect our intellectual abilities and our firm political principles.”

This article first appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines.