May 30, 2013 / 8:08 AM / 4 years ago

Russia: Syria opposition thwarting peace with Assad exit demand

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a news conference after a NATO - Russia foreign ministers meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels April 23, 2013.Yves Herman/Files

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia accused the opposition Syrian National Coalition on Thursday of seeking to thwart peace efforts by making President Bashar al-Assad's exit a condition for participating in a proposed international conference.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying the National Coalition gave the impression it was "doing everything they can to prevent a political process from starting ... and achieve military intervention".

The opposition coalition said on Wednesday it would only take part in international peace talks the United States and Russia are trying to organise if a deadline was set for a settlement that forced Assad to leave power.

Russia, which has been Assad's most powerful protector during the conflict that has killed more than 80,000 people in Syria, has repeatedly said it is not trying to prop him up but that his exit cannot be a precondition for a political solution.

"The National Coalition is not prepared to take part in the conference without preconditions. These conditions are impracticable. And in general, nobody should be throwing ultimatums around," Lavrov said at a news conference after talks with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla.

The Syrian National Coalition "has no constructive platform", he was quoted as saying. "The only thing that unites them is the demand for Bashar al-Assad's immediate exit. But everyone including our Western partners understands that this position is unrealistic." (Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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