Lavrov says Friends of Syria ‘negative’ for dialogue

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said the Friends of Syria grouping of Western and Arab countries opposed to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad undermined dialogue.

“Right now we see this process is making a negative contribution to the [Geneva] decisions,” Lavrov told reporters in Istanbul in remarks translated to Turkish from Russian, referring to a 2012 accord among world powers in Geneva aimed at solving the Syria conflict through talks involving all parties.

“When one party is isolated in any mechanism set up to deal with a conflict, we miss the ground for dialogue,” he said.

Lavrov’s comments came ahead of a key Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul on Saturday to be attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as several of his Western and Arab counterparts.

Russia, not a member of Friends of Syria, is viewed as one of Syria’s closest allies and has three times blocked UN sanctions against Assad’s regime over the conflict, which the United Nations says has left more than 70,000 dead.

Lavrov warned against any military intervention in Syria, saying that it would only make the situation worse and encourage the spread of radical Islamic groups including Al-Qaeda.

“In our future deliberations we will try to avoid any measures that focus on military intervention and the isolation of the parties concerned,” he said.

“We will focus on establishing a dialogue platform with the participation of all parties involved.”

He also said he hoped common sense would prevail at Saturday's Friends of Syria meeting.

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