Topic: Protests in Syria
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MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's priority in the Syrian crisis remains the fastest possible end to the bloodshed in the country and stabilization of the situation there, and not keeping President Bashar al-Assad in power or overthrowing him, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.
"For us, the priority is not the achievement of any geopolitical goals, such as overthrowing the regime. For us, the priority is the stabilization of the situation and an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible," he said.
Other external players in the conflict "clearly have other priorities," he said.
Lavrov criticized the Syrian opposition and said nothing positive would come from its continuing dedication to an armed struggle.
Other participants in the "action group" support the opposition and its war against the Assad regime, he said.
"The National Syrian Coalition declared that its aim is the toppling of the Assad regime and its institutions, which directly contravenes the Geneva agreement, where it is stressed that state institutions must be maintained," he said.
Russia's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, is prepared to cooperate with the Emergencies Ministry to assist Russian citizens wishing to come to Russia from Syria, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.
Russia's Embassy in Syria remains open despite the fighting there and is maintaining contact with Russian citizens, Lavrov said.
"There is an evacuation plan, as in any country, but we haven't put it into action, as in our assessment the situation does not demand it," he said. "There are several tens of thousands of our citizens there, mostly women who are married to Syrian men," he said.
Two Emergencies Ministry aircraft flew to Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, picked up 77 Russian expatriates and took them back to Moscow on Wednesday morning. Elements of the Russian Navy are currently on exercise in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
Syria has been locked in an increasingly bloody civil war since demonstrations broke out against President Assad in March 2011. According to UN estimates, at least 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
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