Lavrov Blasts US, French Dishonest Claims of not Having Sent Delegates to Sochi Congress

MOSCOW- Washington and Paris were disingenuous when they claimed that they had not sent their representatives to the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in Sochi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following talks with his Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders on Tuesday.

Invitations to attend the Sochi Congress as observers were sent to the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China), as well as to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

"All the invited (countries), except for our western counterparts, sent their high-ranking representatives to attend the event," the Russian top diplomat noted.

 At the same time, in Lavrov’s words, "the United States, France and the United Kingdom were disingenuous when they claimed that they had not sent their representatives." "All the three countries sent diplomats from their embassies, though they said they would not attend the event as observers but would just work on the sidelines," the Russian foreign minister said.

"Nevertheless, a reasonable circle of players was present in Sochi, which means that the event encouraged our counterparts. Further developments depend on [United Nations Special Envoy for Syria] Staffan de Mistura. We are grateful to him for taking part in the Congress, he seems to have gained momentum to continue his efforts," Lavrov said.

Sochi Syrian Congress

Participants in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in late January, adopted a 12-point statement outlining their positions on their country’s future. The document stipulates that Syria should maintain its sovereignty and territorial integrity, at the same time pointing out that the Syrian people hold the prerogative to determine the country’s future through elections

The Syrians also requested United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to assist them in setting up a constitutional commission, the mandate of which will be specified at the Geneva talks.

According to the organizers, the Sochi Syrian Congress brought together 1,511 delegates representing all strata of Syrian society.

United States intends to stay in Syria for a long time

Russia does not rule out that the United States intends to stay in Syria for a long time, if not forever, he went on.  According to Russia’s top diplomat, the Americans say their presence in Syria is necessary not only to solve military issues, "but until there is a stable political process there that should end with the transition of power that would be acceptable to all, that is, regime change." "In general, we suspect that the United States wants to stay there for a long time, if not forever," the minister noted.

Washington earlier stated that the only goal of the presence of the US armed forces in Syria is defeating Daesh terror organization, the Russian foreign minister reiterated. "It is now clear that Daesh has failed as a caliphate; this project has failed chiefly due to the actions of the Syrian army supported by the Russian Aerospace Force," Lavrov said.

Washington is trying to create some quasi-state on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in Syria and these steps are dangerous, he added. "To my mind, the Americans are trying to act through dangerous unilateral steps rather than by way of thoroughly developing general accord," Lavrov said.

"These steps increasingly look like part of the course towards cresting some quasi-state on a large part of Syrian territory - on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River up to the Iraqi border," Russia’s top diplomat said.

"This increasingly looks like a course towards disrupting Syria’s territorial integrity," the Russian foreign minister noted.

"Local bodies of power independent of Damascus are being established on this territory and financial resources are being channeled there for the functioning of these bodies of power. Law-enforcement structures that are being created there are being furnished with armament," Russia’s top diplomat said.

"We repeatedly asked these questions but we have not received a comprehensible answer, except for the general slogan: ‘Don’t worry, we stand for Syria’s territorial integrity,’" the Russian foreign minister noted.

"But in actual fact, everything looks differently," Lavrov said.

"I very much hope that after a powerful impulse of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, the UN that oversees the implementation of Resolution No. 2254 and the efforts to establish inclusive inter-Syrian dialogue will in its actions fully take into account the need to cut short any steps of external players, which are leading towards the disruption of the principles of settlement sealed in Resolution No. 2254," Russia’s top diplomat said.

"Russia has supported all along direct participation of Kurds in all efforts on the Syrian settlement and continues to support it. Kurds are an integral part of the Syrian society," the minister said.

"Resolution 2254 [of the UN Security Council] is based on this fact, demanding to adjust the coordination process with participation of the government, the whole opposition and the whole Syrian society," Lavrov noted."

"However, it is necessary to advance towards this inclusive settlement involving Kurds through reaching a common agreement between both all intra-Syrian players and all external participants of the processes that are going on in Syria and around it," he stressed.