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Russia's Lavrov Says Calls For Assad Withdrawal 'Unworkable,' Defends 'Realistic' Approach

Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov (file photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov (file photo)
Russia says it would be "naive" for outside powers to expect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to withdraw his troops first from major cities and then wait for the armed opposition to follow suit.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking to students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, also said that such demands amount to a call for the "unilateral capitulation" by Assad's regime.

"When our partners say that the [Syrian] government must stop first and must withdraw all its soldiers and weapons from cities -- and only then call on the opposition to do the same -- well, this is a completely unworkable scheme," Lavrov told the televised gathering. "Either people are naive or it is some sort of provocation."

Lavrov said Russia itself is "not holding on to any regime or any individuals in the Syrian situation" but "simply basing our position on what is realistic."

"No matter your view of the Syrian regime," Lavrov said, "it is completely unrealistic in the current situation -- when there is fighting going on in the cities -- to say that the only way out is the unilateral capitulation of one of the opposing sides."

Russia and China have repeatedly blocked Western and Arab-backed UN draft resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to end the violence in Syria that has killed an estimated 17,000 people.

Street protests and insurrection broke out in Syria amid the so-called Arab Spring in March 2011.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL, AFP, and Interfax

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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