ST. PETERSBURG, June 21 (RIA Novosti) – The United States needs to choose between its support for an international conference designed to end the civil war in Syria and unilateral steps to support the armed opposition, Russia’s foreign minister said Friday.
The United States is giving the Syrian opposition mixed signals, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a joint interview with The Associated Press and Bloomberg.
“The message the opposition is getting is, 'Guys, don't go to Geneva, don't say you are going to negotiate with the regime, soon things will change in your favor,'” Lavrov said.
“It's either the conference or the instigation of the opposition not to be flexible. I don't think it's possible to do both at the same time,” he added.
In May, Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry proposed holding a second international conference on Syria. The planned gathering has been dubbed “Geneva 2” because the first such conference on Syria was held in Geneva last summer.
“If our goal is the conference, then we must avoid any discussions and, of course, any action designed to establish a no-fly zone. We must avoid confrontational debates and one-sided resolutions in the [United Nations] General Assembly,” Lavrov said Friday.
More than 90,000 people have died since fighting broke out between Syrian government forces and rebel groups in March 2011, according to the latest UN figures.
Russia, along with China, has faced widespread condemnation over its refusal to approve UN sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Moscow has repeatedly stated that it has no interest in seeing Assad remain at the helm, but is concerned that a power vacuum would lead to more violence.