MOSCOW, September 26 (RIA Novosti) –Russia is concerned with Syria’s integrity rather than with supporting the Middle Eastern country’s leadership, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a recent interview with The Washington Post.
Lavrov spoke with the US newspaper’s Lally Weymouth at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
“We are not wedded to anyone in Syria. We are not concerned with any personality. We are concerned with keeping Syria in one piece, territorially integral, sovereign, independent and secular, where the rights of all groups, ethnic and others, are fully respected,” he said.
“That is the goal which I believe the United States also has. The more we try to find common approaches to get there, the more efficient our cooperation will be,” Lavrov said.
Russia remains one of the staunchest supporters of President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, where over two years of fighting between government and opposition forces has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people, according to UN data.
The administration of US President Barack Obama has accused Assad’s government of being responsible for an August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that Washington claims left more than 1,400 dead.
Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly suggested in recent weeks that they have evidence showing the attack was likely carried out by Syrian rebels seeking to frame Assad in order to secure outside military intervention against government forces.
After weeks of intense diplomacy and an almost three-day-long marathon of talks in Geneva between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, Moscow and Washington reached a breakthrough agreement earlier this month to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control for eventual destruction.
Asked whether he feared the possibility of violence spilling over from Syria into the Caucasus, Lavrov told The Washington Post: “The jihadists come from many European countries, Russia included, and some even from the United States; hundreds of them - if you take Europe, Russia and the US - are fighting in the ranks of extremist groups.”
He said he was convinced the fighters were “gaining the experience which they will try to use after the Syrian crisis is over elsewhere, first and foremost in their home countries,” adding that it was a common threat for the international community.
“Either we agree that any terrorism is unacceptable, or we will be playing a double-standard game,” Lavrov said.