RUSSIA has warned that the “bloodbath” in Syria will continue if the West sticks to its demand for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster.
“If the position of our partners remains the departure of this leader who they do not like, the bloodbath will continue,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.
The nearly 20-month conflict in Syria has killed 36,000 people according to activists.
Fabius also said France and Russia failed to bridge their differences over Assad’s role in any future transition government.
“Yes, there is a difference of assessment on the presence of Bashar al-Assad in a transition government,” he said after a meeting of the French and Russian foreign and defence ministers in Paris.
In July, world powers agreed in Geneva on a plan for a transition in Syria which did not make an explicit call for Assad to quit power although the West swiftly made clear it saw no role for him in any unity government.
However Assad’s allies in Beijing and Moscow insist that it is up to Syrians themselves to determine their future without foreign interference.
UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told Moscow on Monday that what he branded a civil war in Syria was going from bad to worse after a failed four-day truce for a Muslim holiday last week.
Lavrov for his part called on the West and regional players including Turkey to start negotiating with Assad as well as the opposition to pave the way for a political solution in Syria.
Lavrov on Wednesday however highlighted common positions taken by France and Russia, including the “desire to see a stop to the conflict, the need to avert an international contagion and the fact that the different communities need to co-exist.
“We all the forces of opposition to unite,” he said, adding that other common stands included “maintaining the rights of minorities” and religious equality.
The two sides also have covering positions on other matters such as Mali, where both permanent members of the UN Security Council backed an October 12 resolution giving West African nations 45 days to outline plans for military intervention there.
The Security Council is pushing for regional African body ECOWAS to prepare a military force against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which is tightening its grip on the north after over-running the area in the chaotic aftermath of a March coup.
The other main topics of Wednesday’s talks were Russian concerns over a new NATO-led missile defence shield for Europe and defence cooperation between Paris and Moscow.
Russia flexed its nuclear muscles last week, firing dummy warheads from planes, a submerged submarine and an underground bunker in a show of force coinciding with tensions between Moscow and Washington over space defence issues.
France and Russia signed a deal early last year for the sale of four Mistral helicopter carriers to Moscow. The long-discussed purchase was Russia’s first major arms acquisition abroad in the two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Defence experts say France is also trying to sell armoured vehicles to Russia.