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At UN General Debate, Russian Foreign Minister calls for return to Geneva accord on Syria

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of the Russian Federation addresses General Assembly.
UN Photo/Marco Castro
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of the Russian Federation addresses General Assembly.

At UN General Debate, Russian Foreign Minister calls for return to Geneva accord on Syria

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, today urged Member States to help bridge the divisions in the Security Council over the ongoing Syrian conflict and promote a return to an agreement outlining the steps for a peaceful transition in the Middle Eastern country.

“We have consistently called for consolidated efforts of the international community to compel the [Syrian] government and its opponents to immediately cease violence and come to the negotiating table,” Mr. Lavrov said from the General Assembly’s podium while referring to an already established agreement between a so-called Action Group, made up members of the international community, on resolving the Syrian violence.

Meeting in Geneva in June, the UN-backed Action Group agreed to a six-point peace plan calling for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

The Group also agreed on a set of principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people, which includes the establishment of a transitional governing body that would exercise full executive powers and that would be made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups.

Action Group members include the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Ban Ki-moon and Nabil Elaraby, respectively, the Foreign Ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America – as well as the Turkish Foreign Minister, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Foreign Ministers of Iraq, as Chair of the Summit of the League of Arab States; Kuwait, as Chair of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the League of Arab States and Qatar, as Chair of the Follow-up Committee on Syria of the League of Arab States.

“We call upon all members of the Action Group to fully confirm the commitments that all of us have taken on in Geneva. This is the shortest way to stop the loss of human life,” Mr. Lavrov continued.

In his statement, he also warned those who opposed the implementation of the Geneva agreement that they take upon themselves “an enormous responsibility.”

“They insist on a ceasefire only by the government and encourage the opposition to intensify hostilities, but in fact they push Syria even deeper in the abyss of bloody internecine strife,” he said.

More than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began 18 months ago. The UN estimates that a further 2.5 million Syrians urgently need humanitarian aid.

The political transformations occurring across the Arab world also figured prominently in Mr. Lavrov’s statement to the General Debate. Citing Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Foreign Minister said it was “unacceptable” for any nation to impose a political system upon others and urged that all actions by the world body’s Member States rely on “a solid basis of the UN Charter, where nothing provides for the right to change regimes.”

“All the sequence of events in the Arab world and in other regions proves the futility of such a policy that can lead to dangerous accumulation of interethnic and inter-religious clashes in international relations,” he added.

The Russian Foreign Minister is one of scores of heads of State and government and other high-level officials who are presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.