Russian FM Sergei Lavrov Holds Press Conference Following 70th UNGA Session

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has held a press conference following the 70th UN General Assembly session.

Many countries have shown an interest in the broad anti-terrorist coalition proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.

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"We held a ministerial [UN] Security Council meeting yesterday. During the discussion, we heard different points of view… I believe that many perceived positively and with interest President Putin's initiative on the need to create a broad anti-terrorism front that would be based on international law, the UN Charter, and that would act with the consent of and in close coordination with countries in the region," Lavrov told reporters.

The main targets of Russian airstrikes in Syria are Islamic State weapons and fuel depots, the Foreign Minister added.

Russia and the international US-led coalition against the Islamic State share the common goal of defeating terrorists in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.

"The goal is terrorism, and we are not supporting anyone against their own people, we fight terrorism. As far as I understand, the coalition announced ISIL [Islamic State] and other associated groups as the enemy, and the coalition does the same as Russia does," Lavrov told reporters.

"As regards the targets of the coalition and the targets announced by Russia, we have the same approach, it's ISIL [Islamic State], Nusra, and other terrorist groups," the minister said.

But Russia cannot be a part of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State as it operates bypassing international law, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.

"For more than one year, the coalition has been bombing Syria without the consent of the Syrian government, without an 'OK' from the Security Council, without informing anyone…. We, indeed, are interested in cooperation with the coalition. We cannot be part of the coalition, which operates without the Security Council mandate and without request from one of the countries on whose territory they operate," Lavrov told reporters.

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"But we understand the reality, and we want to avoid any misunderstandings at minimum. At maximum we want to have cooperation which will make the counterterrorism fight more efficient," he added.

Turning to Russia's relations with the West, Lavrov stated that Russia believes in collective action and joint efforts based on international law and "agreements reached and never broken."

The Russian top diplomat dismissed as preposterous claims that Syrian President Bashar Assad must be removed from power for the Islamic State jihadist group to be defeated.

"We cannot forget about the political process, but we cannot condition fighting ISIL [Islamic State] by changing the political system in Syria. We believe that, first of all, fighting terrorism must be a priority, but parallel with this, not after, but parallel with this, many things could be done on the political front," Lavrov told reporters.

Claims that Russia is engaging in the fight against terrorism in Syria in order to divert attention from the conflict in Ukraine are "absurd," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"It's always possible to find some absurd interpretation of what is going on. I hope you don't share this news, and I hope no one in this room believes that in order not to distract attention from Ukraine you should not fight terrorism. I hope this is not the case," Lavrov told reporters.

Russia does not consider the Free Syrian Army a terrorist group, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during the press conference following the 70th UN General Assembly session.

"We don't consider the Free Syrian Army a terrorist group. We believe that the Free Syrian Army should be part of the political process, like some other armed groups on the ground composed of the Syrian patriotic opposition," Lavrov told reporters.

"This is absolutely necessary for the political process to hold and to be sustainable," he added.

On Wednesday, the Russian parliament approved the use of country's air force to conduct airstrikes against ISIL, following a request by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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The UN Charter allows the use of force in a foreign country only if it is authorized by the UN Security Council, an act of self-defense, or at the specific request of the country's authorities.

The 70th session of the UN General Assembly officially kicked off at the UN Headquarters on September 15. The Assembly's annual general debate involving heads of state and government opened on Monday.

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