KIRUNA (Sweden), May 15 (RIA Novosti) – An international conference on Syria at a ministerial level may be held in Geneva if both sides of the Syrian conflict agree to participate in the event, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.
“We share the opinion that this conference should be held in Geneva,” Lavrov said after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the Arctic Council session in Sweden.
“As for the representation, we are talking about ministers and deputy ministers rather than heads of state,” the Russian minister said.
Lavrov announced after a previous meeting with Kerry on May 7 that the two countries had decided to hold an international conference at the end of May, aimed at facilitating a solution to the Syrian crisis through political dialogue.
The conference would be a follow-up to last year’s international meeting in Geneva that drafted a peace roadmap for Syria.
Lavrov reiterated on Wednesday that the conference initiative must be supported both by the Syrian government and the opposition in order for the event to take place.
Opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad have refused to sit down for talks with the regime in the past, saying that Assad’s removal is a non-negotiable issue.
The Russian minister also said that the list of the participants in a new conference should be expanded to include Syria’s neighbors and “key regional players,” such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Syria has been locked in an increasingly bloody civil war since demonstrations broke out against Assad regime in March 2011. According to UN estimates, at least 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.