Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sought to engage Russia’s international partners on Monday by continuing a dialogue on a range of thorny issues.
Lavrov’s statements came before his expected attendance at the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia’s Far East seaport, which will run until September 9. The top diplomat spoke about the ongoing Syrian civil war as well as North Korea’s nuclear program.
“In principle, the positions of Russia and the United States do not contradict each other. We both want the same thing – Syria’s transition to a democratic, pluralistic system, which would be handled by Syrians themselves while respecting the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the country,” he said in an interview Monday.
However, Lavrov, who is set to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the summit, added the United States and Russia still disagree about whether Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad should go -- and how.
“Everything else should be resolved at the negotiating table by the Syrians. To dictate anything about the future of their country is, we believe, counterproductive,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov also noted that Russia maintains a political and expert-based dialogue with North Korea over its nuclear program, and that it supports a renewal of the long-stalled international talks.
He said Russia “operates upon the fact that late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il…personally confirmed his country’s continued commitment to the idea of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”
The Syrian issue has helped obscur U.S.-Russian relations since it first broke in March 2011. While the United States is pushing for Assad's ouster, Russia stands firmly against any outside intervention against the regime.
North Korea, meanwhile, has leapt back onto the international agenda after its new leader, Kim Jong-un, took over after his father died last December. The transition has left the international community wondering about both Jong-un's hold on power and his willingness to engage in international talks.