(MOSCOW) — If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thought her meeting last week in Ireland with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss ways to resolve the civil war in Syria would prompt Moscow to push for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, she learned on Sunday that that is not the case.
Russia has been reluctant to get on board with most of the international community in calling for al-Assad to step down, but many felt that recent rebel gains would prompt Moscow to advise its longtime ally it was time to go.
On Sunday, Lavrov dispelled any notion that his country was working to oust al-Assad.
He told reporters, “We are not conducting any negotiations on the fate of Assad. All attempts to portray things differently are unscrupulous, even for diplomats of those countries which are known to distort the facts in their favor.”
The statement seems aimed at Western officials and diplomats who have hinted Moscow is ready to help convince Assad to step down.
After her meeting last week with Lavrov, Secretary Clinton told reporters, “We have been trying hard to work with Russia to try to stop the bloodshed in Syria and start a political transition for a post-Assad Syrian future.”
U.S. and Russian officials met on Sunday in Geneva with United Nations special envoy Lakhdad Brahimi. Afterwards, they issued a statement saying the situation in Syria was “bad and getting worse,” but expressed hope that a political solution was “still necessary and still possible.”
The crisis began in March 2011 with Syrians demanding democratic reform. It has since escalated into a major armed conflict, costing tens of thousands of lives.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN