Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied on Friday holding talks with France or any other country on the possibility of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure from power. Earlier, France announced that such discussions were underway.
AFP - Russia on Friday denied holding discussions with other nations on a political transformation in its Soviet-era Syria that would include the departure of President Bashar al-Assad.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also stressed that Russia would insist on Iran joining any future international talks on the crisis.
"I read somewhere today that supposedly, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said something along the lines of the United States and Russia discussing a political transformation in Syria after the departure of Bashar al-Assad," Lavrov told reporters.
"If this was really said, this is not true. There were no such discussions and there could not have been such discussions. This completely contradicts our position," he told reporters.
"We are not involved in regime change through either the UN Security Council or through involvement in sort of political conspiracies."
Lavrov was speaking just a day after meeting US Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns in Kabul for talks that Washington described as "constructive."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had earlier on Friday also mentioned discussing a post-Assad Syria with Russia.
"The Russians are not today attached to the person of Bashar al-Assad," Fabius said.
"They clearly see he is a tyrant and a murderer. But they are sensitive about who might take his place, if Assad is ousted. The discussion is about that," he told France Inter radio.
The French foreign minister also said that major world powers could soon hold a conference on Syria in the Swiss city of Geneva.
"There is a possibility, I don't know if we'll get there, but there is a possibility of holding a conference in Geneva on June 30," said Fabius.
Participants would include countries on the Security Council but the meeting would be held "without the constraints of the Security Council," he added.
Lavrov said that Russia could participate in such meeting under the condition that it agreed with the list of participating nations.
Russia has been pushing for the involvement of close Syria ally Iran in future discussion on ways to end a 15-month crisis that observers say has claimed nearly 15,000 lives.
Lavrov said the Geneva meeting must also avoid deciding the political future of Syria and instead focus on ways to end the bloodshed.
"If these two conditions are met, we are ready and will definitely take part in such a conference," Lavrov said.
"But it is important to respect our interests. These are not selfish interests -- they are a position aimed at achieving a result."