Last updated: 15 May, 2013

Russia calls on Syrian opposition to back peace conference

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday called on the Syrian opposition to support Moscow and Washington in their efforts to work towards convening a peace conference to end the bloodshed in Syria.

“It is important for all participants to express articulate support for the Russian-US initiative to implement the Geneva communique,” Lavrov was quoted as saying in the Swedish town of Kiruna by Russian news agencies.

“We (with the USA) have firm initiatives,” the state ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as saying. “We should mobilise support for this conference. All outside participants in this situation, all Syrian sides, should be mobilised.”

Syria’s key National Coalition opposition group is scheduled to meet in Istanbul on May 23 to discuss a Russia-US proposal for an international conference on a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

The meeting was proposed by Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month and will aim to build on an agreement reached by world powers last June in Geneva.

The never implemented agreement called for a cessation of violence and the establishment of a transitional government without ever spelling out the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Lavrov, who is in Sweden for a meeting of the Arctic Council, a grouping of countries with Arctic territory, discussed the holding of the peace conference with Kerry on Tuesday.

Kerry said both he and Lavrov believed that the conference could indeed be organised in accordance with plans.

“We discussed the challenge of Syria,” he said. “We are very optimistic that it can be done.”

“We are confident about the direction we’re moving in,” he added.

“We (Russia and the US) both believe it is extremely constructive and positive that we are working together to reach a peaceful solution with a government of transition.”