Lavrov says Syria needs elections
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin wants Syria to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections, as Moscow intensified its drive to convert its increased clout with Damascus into a political settlement.
In comments Saturday that mark a shift in Russia’s position, he also said that Russia’s air force, which Moscow says has been bombing Islamist militants in Syria, would be ready to help Western-backed Free Syrian Army rebels, if it knew where they were.
The Kremlin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s strongest foreign ally, has spoken broadly about the need for elections in Syria before. But Lavrov’s comments were its most specific call yet for political renewal and came just days after a surprise visit by Assad to Moscow.
“External players cannot decide anything for the Syrians. We must force them to come up with a plan for their country where the interests of every religious, ethnic and political group will be well protected,” Lavrov told Russian state TV in an interview broadcast Saturday. “They need to prepare for both parliamentary and presidential elections.”