Moscow has denied reports that it supported a plan for setting up a transitional government without President Bashar al-Assad that should be discussed at an international conference on Syria in Geneva on Saturday.
“There are no agreed drafts [for the Geneva conference]. It is still work in progress,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“The meeting in Geneva is to support [United Nations and Arab League envoy] Kofi Annan’s plan and it must set conditions for ending violence and launching an all-Syrian national dialogue, and not pre-determine the contents of this dialogue,” said Mr. Lavrov.
An unnamed U.S. diplomat has suggested that Moscow backed Mr. Annan’s proposal for a transitional government that would exclude officials (presumably President Assad) whose presence might “undermine efforts to bring reconciliation”.
However, Moscow “cannot and will not support any outside meddling and imposition of recipes [in Syria]”, Mr. Lavrov said at a joint press conference with his Tunisian counterpart Rafiq Abdel Salam in Moscow on Thursday.
“The fate of President Bashar al-Assad should be decided by the Syrians themselves,” Mr. Lavrov added.
“It is self-evident that Syria does need a transition period. However, the substance of this transition period and its mechanism must be decided by the people of Syria in the course of a dialogue between the government and all opposition groups,” the Russian Foreign Minister said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to discuss the Syrian crisis with Mr Lavrov in St. Petersburg on Friday.