Russia will not oppose the departure of Syria's President Bashar Assad if such a move is a result of a dialogue between Syrians themselves and is not enforced through external pressure, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.
"If the Syrians agree (about Assad's departure) between each other, we will only be happy to support such a solution," Lavrov told reporters. "But we believe it is unacceptable to impose the conditions for such a dialogue from outside."
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Lavrov added that Moscow's concern about Syria's conflict is growing but that Russia will continue to oppose the outside use of force.
"The situation in Syria is becoming more alarming," Lavrov told a news conference at which he pushed Russia's proposal for an international conference on the crisis. "An impression is being created that Syria is on the verge of a full-scale civil conflict."
Daraa mosque where wounded were taken to
He said two recent attacks had put Russians in the capital Damascus in danger: a bus carrying Russian specialists that came under fire on Saturday and a Friday grenade attack on a building where Russians live. There were no injuries, he said.
Despite growing concerns that the situation may be spinning out of control, Russia as a member of the United Nations Security Council "will not sanction the use of force," he said. Russia has blocked proposed UN resolutions to impose sanctions on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Lavrov said Russia's resistance to intervention in Syria is "not because we are protecting Assad and his regime, but because we know that Syria is a complicated multi-confessional state and because we know that some of those calling for military intervention want to ruin this and turn Syria into a battleground for domination in the Islamic world."
Armored vehicles in Daraa (Photo: AFP)
Russia has been a strong supporter of the mission of UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, who has put forth a plan for ending the violence between Assad's forces and opposition fighters.
But the plan is severely stumbling amid the rise in violence, and Lavrov said an international conference should convene to galvanize international commitment to the plan.
He said participants should include the permanent members of the Security Council, the European Union and influential countries in the region.
He did not specifically mention Iran as a possible participant, but the Interfax news agency on Saturday quoted deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov as saying "Iran has the full right to be represented at this conference because on account of Iran's regional role and the specific character of its relations with Syria we consider that the participation of Iran could play a constructive role."
The UN said several weeks ago that at least 9,000 people have been killed since the crisis began in March last year while Syrian activists say the violence has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report
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