Russia won't pressure Assad to quit: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Friday that Moscow will not push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to quit, saying it would be against Russian policy and in any case would be futile.

"It is not for us to decide who should lead Syria. It is for the Syrians to decide," Lavrov said in a BBC interview.

Asked if there was any chance of Russia urging its ally Assad to stand aside to end the two-year conflict in Syria, which the UN says has claimed 70,000 lives, Lavrov said: "Absolutely not.

"You know that we are not in the regime-change game. We are against interference in domestic conflicts. This is our position, which should be of no surprise to anyone."

Lavrov said the departure of Assad should not be a pre-condition for negotiations to end the conflict because it was highly unlikely to happen.

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"He is not going to leave, we know this for sure -- all those who get in touch with him know that he is not bluffing," the Russian minister said.

He added: "We have been against any pre-conditions to stop the violence and start the dialogue because we believe priority number one is to save lives."

Lavrov is headed to the United Kingdom next week for talks with Foreign Secretary William Hague, BBC said.

The two nations are not that distant in their hopes for Syria, amid a two-year long civil war that's killed an estimated 70,000 people, Lavrov said.

A further 1 million have fled the country and 2.5 million inside Syria have been displaced.

"We both want Syria to be united, to be democratic. We both want the Syrian people to choose freely the way they would like to run their country," Lavrov said.

Syrian rebels have campaigned for military help from the West, The Associated Press, as Russia and Iran are supporting Assad's regime.

The Syrian civil war is expected to dominate the agenda when Hague meets Lavrov.

GlobalPost contributed to this report.

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