French, Russian FMs meet for talks on Syria, Ukraine, other issues

PARIS, June 29 (KUNA) — French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault met here Wednesday with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss a variety of international issues, topped by Syria, Ukraine, Lebanon, the EU and Nagorno-Karabakh territory disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, official French sources said.
Speaking in a press conference, both ministers highlighted in their talks the need to fight international terrorism in the wake of the latest attacks in Istanbul that killed 41 people and wounded over 200 on Tuesday.
“Condemnation is not enough,” Lavrov said at the conference. “We need specific action to fight terrorism.” This view was echoed by Ayrault who said “there is a need to reinforce international cooperation…in the fight against terrorism” and he issued a call to the international community to work together against this scourge.
Ayrault also stressed that bilateral relations with Russia need to be boosted “to restore the relationship” and he said both sides were taking a “constructive approach” in many areas, although he acknowledged there were “divergences” between Paris and Moscow on several issues.
Syria is one area where there is strong difference of approach and the two ministers discussed the Syrian situation, they indicated.
“The only way to resolve this crisis is through the political process,” Ayrault stated, adding that a broad participation in these process is needed.
For his part, Lavrov noted Russia was part of the “support group” for Syria but he stressed there was a need to eliminate “terrorists” in Syria.
“In Syria, we cooperate with the Syrian government and the internal opposition. We cooperate with all of them,” the Russian Minister.
But he said that the “main pre-condition” for cooperating in a political process is to agree to submit proposals.
Some groups take “an obstructionist approach” and only “issue ultimatums.” “We need to destroy terrorists in Syria,” Lavrov declared, adding that there is also a need for “broad humanitarian access and a political process.” He said Russia was in close contact with “Qatar and other Gulf countries” and that the frozen ties with Turkey could be improved after contacts resumed between the leaderships of both countries on Wednesday. “Until recently we had very close contacts with Turkey about a Syrian settlement, and then these were interrupted for clear reasons,” Lavrov said, alluding to the shooting down of a Russian plane that strayed briefly over Turkey several months ago.
“Now that the Turkish President has sent apologies to the Russian President, and when they discussed possibilities of normalisation of our relations by phone today, it seems to me that we will resume interaction with our Turkish partners on the search for ways to settle the Syrian crisis,” he said.
Ayrault and Lavrov also discussed the British decision to leave the European Union and the consequences this withdrawal might have.
The French Minister sought to reassure Lavrov that the EU was capable and equipped to move beyond this crisis.
“The EU is united to handle this difficult situation,” the French Foreign Minister said, adding that relations between Paris and Moscow are evolving and France hoped that EU sanctions against Russia could soon be lifted.
“France and Russia are partners in many areas even if there are divergences,” he added. (end) jk.ajs

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