Opposition should take part in conference on Syria without preconditions - Lavrov
"The main thing is to ensure the consent of opposition groups to take part in the conference without any precondition," Lavrov told a news conference in Sochi on Monday.
It is expected that Istanbul and Madrid will host meetings of various Syrian opposition groups this week, he said.
"Our colleagues, including Americans together with who we put forward this initiative [to hold the conference], took the obligation to work closely with the opposition in order to make it change its approach to the immediate start of the negotiations and stop conditioning it with unrealistic things," Lavrov said.
The second conditions are to ensure a representational level of the conference that would allow to seriously discuss issues, he said. "There is no doubt that the invitation of all Syria's neighbors without exception, including Syria, is mandatory," Lavrov said.
"The issue of deciding what Syrians should resolve themselves needs clarification," he said.
"Ideas that everything will be written for Syrians, and then they will be compelled to agree with it do not suit us," Lavrov said.
When these crucial issues are agreed on, one will be able speak about the date of the conference, he said. "if there is good will these preliminary understandings may be reached rather swiftly. And then the beginning of June does not look as something unrealistic," he said.
Russia and the US have agreed that the fate of President Bashar Assad is in the hands of the Syrian people. “The US has signed an American-Russian initiative dated May 7, which sets no preconditions whatsoever,” the Russian foreign chief stressed.
Speaking alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated he could see no place for Bashar Assad in Syria’s future, but added that was not his decision to make.
Mr. Lavrov backed this approach, saying any push for Assad’s resignation would be regarded as a foreign interference with the nation’s home affairs. He reminded that the Geneva communiqué dating June 30, 2012 stipulated that the power transition was to preserve all existing political institutions.
The Russian foreign minister also said it was “counter-productive” to set a fixed deadline for the Syrian peace conference. John Kerry earlier said that some Syria mediators believed the settlement could be reached in a matter of days or weeks.
Sergei Lavrov stressed however that more time was needed to take on such an important decision. “Conferences that are supposed to bring peace to nations are known to last months, even years,” he pointed out, citing the Dayton conference and peace talks on Lebanon that took some 14 years to conclude.
He also urged to give Iran a seat at the Syria negotiating table. “It would be only right to allow Iran to take part in the peace talks as an ‘external participant’ considered the leverage it has in the matter,” Mr. Lavrov said.
Russia’s chief foreign official called for all sides to the Syrian conflict to show restraint when handling the peace settlement. He said the May meeting with Secretary of State Kerry paved a way for the conference which only needed the go-ahead of the parties concerned.
The Syrian government appears to be committed to peace talks, Lavrov said, adding some of opposition forces had nevertheless come up with prerequisites of their own.
Voice of Russia, Interfax