Lavrov: There are differences between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran regarding how the Syrian crisis will proceed

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Monday, that during a meeting with the Syrian President, Bashar al Assad, the two parties agreed that the situation in Syria had returned to relative calm.

At a press conference in Damascus with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al Muallem, and the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Yuri Borisov, Lavrov said: “Today we discussed in detail during our lengthy talks with Mr. Bashar al Assad, the situation on the ground. 

We concluded that there was a relative calm prevailing in Syria, and we must work to consolidate this trend.

“Syria has won the war on terror with Russia’s support, and the priority now is for reconstruction,” Lavrov said.

He added that Moscow would defend the principle of Syria’s sovereignty and independence, pointing out that only Syrians “decide the fate of their country”.

Lavrov expressed confidence that the last nests of terrorism in Syria will be defeated.

The minister said that there are parties that do not accept the return of Syria to its stability, which pushes some actors to try to fuel separatist tendencies in this country and to use “unilateral illegal measures aimed at strangling the country economically”.

Lavrov added that the Russian side in Damascus renewed Moscow’s adherence to Syria’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence,” indicating that Russia will continue its efforts to ensure the right of the Syrian people to self-determination, whether at the national level or within the framework of the three-state guarantor of the “Astana agreement”.

(Russia, Turkey, Iran), as well as in the context of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which started its work in Geneva.

Lavrov also revealed differences between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran in how the Syrian crisis is proceeding, stressing at the same time that the three countries are united by sincere efforts to prevent a recurrence of the Iraq and Libya scenario, and praising the Russian role in resolving the Libyan crisis.

Lavrov said in a press conference with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al Muallem, on Monday, in Damascus: “There are differences between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran regarding how the Syrian crisis will proceed, but we are united by the sincere endeavor to prevent a repeat of the Iraq-Libya scenario”.

He added that “Iran’s presence in Syria is related to the sovereign will of the legitimate Syrian government”.

Concerning the Astana talks, Lavrov noted that “the Astana process crystallized when the United Nations abstained from taking concrete steps regarding the Syrian file”.

And he added, “Our cooperation with Turkey in the Idlib region to de-escalate the escalation is the most important area for our cooperation, and agreements have been reached, the most important of which is the separation between the moderate opposition and extremists, and securing the road (M4)”.

He continued: “All charters and documents outside the Astana agreement literally state the commitment of Russia and Turkey to the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the Syrian territories”.

And he continued: “The lands under the control of the Syrian government have expanded significantly after the signing of the Russian-Turkish agreement”.

Lavrov said that the Astana track crystallized when the United Nations abstained from taking concrete steps with the Syrian file.

For his part, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem affirmed that “there is no link between economic cooperation and political relations between Russia and Syria as they develop in the public interest of the two peoples”.

In this context, the Russian Foreign Minister affirmed that the accusations that Russia is using the Hmeimim base in Syria to transfer weapons and mercenaries to Libya are baseless allegations.

He added, “We must not forget the nature of the Libyan crisis, which has its roots in a NATO adventure,” noting that “the parties to the Libyan crisis are meeting in Moscow in search of commonalities”.

Lavrov pointed out that since the first days of the Libyan crisis, Russia was the only country that had maintained relations with all the forces involved in the conflict, with the passage of time the external parties realized the impossibility of a military solution to the Libyan crisis.

Lavrov called for an “immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Libya”.

al Muallem explained that the future of relations with Russia is promising and promising with regard to the economic and political situation in the country.

“We are optimistic that the general economic situation will witness an improvement in the coming months”.

al Muallem pointed out that the Russian delegation held a fruitful meeting today with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, which covered various aspects of bilateral cooperation and the political situation in Syria and the region.

In response to a question, al Muallem affirmed that the next constitution is a matter of what the members of the committee for discussing the constitution reach, and whether it is a new constitution or an amendment that will be submitted to a popular referendum to have the widest representation, indicating that the debate will continue regarding the constitution until an understanding is reached among the committee’s members and that it has nothing to do with it.

Presidential elections, which will be held on schedule next year.

Earlier in the day, President al Assad received a high-level Russian delegation headed by Yuri Borisov, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Syrian sources told the German news agency (dpa) that “al Assad stressed that Syria is interested in the success of Russian investments, and all issues were discussed to reach an acceptable solution”.

Lavrov had arrived in Damascus this afternoon, while Borisov arrived yesterday evening to head the Russian side in the meetings of the Russian-Syrian Supreme Committee in its twelfth session.

On Monday, Syrian President Bashar al Assad discussed in Damascus with a Russian delegation, which included Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, economic cooperation between the two allies, to support Damascus in the face of economic sanctions imposed on it.

Lavrov arrived in Damascus on Monday morning, on his first visit to Syria since 2012, a year after the outbreak of the conflict, to join a delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov that arrived in Damascus on Sunday evening.

On Monday, al Assad met with the Russian delegation, stressing “the Syrian government’s determination to continue working with Russian allies in order to implement the agreements signed between the two countries, including the success of Russian investments in Syria”.

During the meeting, according to the official account of the Syrian Presidency on the “Telegram” website, they discussed efforts “to reach new agreements, in a way that contributes to achieving the interests of the two countries and mitigating the effects of the coercive sanctions policy pursued by some countries against the Syrian people”.

The Syrian presidency added that “there was an agreement on the importance of starting the implementation of the mechanisms to bypass the economic blockade and the pressures on the Syrian people,” without adding details of these mechanisms and the manner of their implementation.

The Russian delegation’s visit comes at a time when Syria is witnessing a stifling economic crisis and a decline in the value of the pound, amid fears that it will be exacerbated by the recent sanctions imposed by Washington under the Caesar Act.

The sanctions, which affected the first package of 39 persons or entities, including Assad and his wife Asma, are the most severe against Syria. In July, Washington announced a new list of 14 additional entities and individuals, including Hafez (18 years), the eldest son of the Syrian president, and announced a third package last month.

Lavrov is scheduled to meet with his Syrian counterpart Walid al Muallem, who is holding a joint press conference with the Russian delegation in the afternoon.

In recent years, Moscow signed bilateral agreements with Damascus and long-term contracts in several fields, most notably energy, construction, oil and agriculture.

In the summer of 2019, the Syrian People’s Assembly approved a contract signed with a Russian company to manage and invest the port of Tartus, the largest in the country. 

The same company had previously won a contract to invest and extract phosphate from mines in the Palmyra region for a period of fifty years.

Russia is among the most prominent allies of the Syrian government alongside Iran, and since the beginning of the conflict in 2011 it has provided diplomatic and economic support, and has defended it in international forums, especially in the UN Security Council, where it has banned several draft resolutions condemning the Syrian regime.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Damascus for the first time since the outbreak of the conflict in early 2020, and he also visited the Russian Hmeimim Air Base in 2017.

The Russian military intervention in Syria since September 2015 has contributed to reversing the balance of power in the conflict in favor of the Syrian army, and has enabled it to achieve several victories in the face of both the opposition factions and the Islamic State. 

Thousands of Russian forces are deployed throughout Syria in support of the Syrian army.

A group of Russian private security personnel also operate in the field.