Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Russian Ambassador to Cairo Serge Kirpichenko has called Russia and China’s position toward the Syrian crisis the optimum neutral stand, whilst the contrasting position of Western and Arab countries is “not neutral”, and has private interests behind it. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Serge Kirpichenko said: “Neutrality does not mean using the right to veto, but it means (not interfering militarily), and anyone who calls for military intervention is not being neutral towards Syria. This is the meaning of neutrality as we understand it, since military intervention and support does not indicate neutrality.”
The Russian ambassador stressed that his country is maintaining the same distance between the opposition and the regime in Syria. He revealed that behind-the-scenes developments regarding the Arab initiative for Syria have been regrettable, and what has been announced in public does not reflect reality of what the Arabs have agreed on. He said: “To our deep regret, we have found that the stance of the Arabs themselves has led to the failure of the Arab initiative. The behind-the-scenes developments of the initiative have witnessed a stark contrast in Arab stances, and their decisions have clear contradictions between what has been declared and what remains undeclared.”
He added: “The issue began with observers being sent to Syria, and then they were recalled. Whatever the justifications, the observers’ mission timeframe was in no way sufficient, and we advocated the continuation of this mission and called for the support of the United Nations and other international institutions. However, today we have returned to square one once again.”
Serge Kirpichenko refused to consider the possibility of the Syrian regime breaching the deadline given by the international community to President Bashar al-Assad (until 10th April) to cease fire and resolve the Syrian issue politically, in light of al-Assad’s inclinations towards further bloodshed. The Russian Ambassador to Cairo pointed out that the Russian policy towards Syria will not change even if the ceasefire fails, and that his country will continue to make further contact with all parties to reach a political solution that is acceptable to all.
Serge Kirpichenko, who worked as an ambassador for his country in Damascus before assuming his new post in Cairo last October, expects a genuine peace settlement to be initiated in Syria soon. He said: “I have great hope for this, and there are signs that the implementation of Annan’s plan has begun. The Syrian crisis is very complicated and there are roots behind the blood that has unfortunately been shed as a result, but we should look forward. We have already supported the appointment of Kofi Annan and all the steps towards rendering the truce successful, because the alternative [if Annan’s plan is not implemented] will have further negative consequences not only for Syria.”
Serge Kirpichenko added: “We have close relations not only with the regime in Syria, but also with the Syrian people, including the opposition and all its spectra, and I assure you that we have entered into a confrontation with the Syrian Government more than once in order to reach a satisfactory, peaceful political solution. However, we do not have a magic wand to render any plan successful because, in all honesty, the problems we are facing in Syria are (very grave) and require patience.”
Serge Kirpichenko claimed that the accusation put forth by some about Russia supporting Syria out of concern for the demise of its ally in the region is untrue, and said: “We have interests with all Arab countries without exception, and our interests with Syria are the same as our interests with other Arab countries. We do not attach our interests in the Arab world to the fate of a certain regime, whether in Syria or elsewhere.” He added: “We support the democratic transformation in the Arab world and we hope that this change will be successful, and that it will be peaceful and democratic at the same time. However, regrettably, the democratic change in some countries of the Arab Spring, such as Libya, has not been peaceful. Therefore, we are very cautious about the Syrian situation.”
Serge Kirpichenko asked: “Why does the United States insist on escalating matters these days, particularly when we are about to reach a political solution?” He pointed out that there are different ways and means to achieve a democratic transformation, and that the continuation of al-Assad’s regime does not mean that democratic change has failed, but there will definitely be a positive change in Syria.
On Russia’s relations with Iran and Syria, Serge Kirpichenko said: “We have relations with Iran and Syria, and we have relations with other regimes that consider themselves opponents to these regimes. We are not gambling on this enmity between various regimes in the Middle East, but we want to overcome these divisions and differences, and this is one of the tools of Russian diplomacy.”