The Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday said that the Geneva II conference on Syria will go ahead as planned on January 22, 2014, following a meeting between it, the US, and the UN in Geneva on Friday.

In a statement published on its website, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the “main practical achievement” of the meeting was the confirmation of the date of the conference, which it said reflected “the awareness of the overwhelming majority of the world that there is no alternative to achieve political and diplomatic settlement of the Syrian crisis, regarding which the Russian Federation insisted from the outset”.


Moscow’s main tactic in pushing for the Geneva conference to go ahead — even as the Assad regime has not only continued but increased its offensives on the ground against opposition-controlled areas particularly around Aleppo — has been to put out the line that the Syrian conflict has been taken over by “foreign terrorists” who are using the unrest for their own ends, and who are not connected in any way to any domestic dispute.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement continued with this same line, emphasizing that the “political process should facilitate joint efforts of all Syrians to combat the terrorist threat”.

That line was put out by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a recent television interview, when he told the Russian public that the newly-formed Islamic Front was linked to Al Qaeda, and that “Syrian patriots” must unite to expel extremist, Al Qaeda affiliates from Syria.

In effect, Moscow has said that the “terrorist jihadist threat” is so great that Syrians should focus on dealing with it as a priority; that Assad should stay in power; and that “moderate” opposition forces should join pro-Assad forces in expelling “foreign terrorists” including the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham.


Moscow appears unruffled — at least publicly — by the U.S. refusal on Friday to agree to Iran’s presence at the Geneva conference. The Russian Foreign Ministry merely emphasized in its statement that both Moscow and the UN wish Iran, as as “influential regional player” to be present at the conference.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, however, used his Twitter account to criticize (in English, so addressed to an international audience) Washington’s opposition to Iran’s presence at the conference.

Washington has opposed Iran’s presence at the conference because of its support — practical and diplomatic — for the Assad regime.

“On Iran, we haven’t agreed yet It’s no secret that we in the United Nations welcome the participation of Iran, but our partners in the United States are still not convinced,” the BBC quoted the UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, as saying on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry used another of Gatilov’s tweets (in Russian this time) to emphasize that Damascus was preparing itself for the peace talks — the implication being, of course, that Assad has no intention of stepping down:


Moscow’s main message is that not only are the talks are set to go ahead, but that it, the US and the UN all agree on that fact.

The Russians have chosen to focus on this angle rather than overtly criticizing the US for its refusal to back down on the issue of Iran’s presence at the talks.

Meanwhile, Russian news agency Interfax made sure to emphasize points of agreement between Moscow and Washington over the peace talks, while neatly ignoring any areas of contention over Iran. In a report from Friday, Interfax quotes State Department spokesman Jennifer Psaki as saying, “Naturally, we have talked for a long time that we share with the Russian Federation the view that the conflict (in Syria – Interfax) cannot be resolved by military force. It can be resolved only through political means” (the statement is translated from the Russian).

While Interfax does mention Psaki’s remark that Assad has “no future” in Syria, the report does not translate the State Department spokesman’s comments that Iran’s presence at Geneva “does not seem particularly helpful”.

Like this post? Subscribe to get EA’s latest delivered to your inbox!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner