MOSCOW, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The top priority for the Russian government regarding the Syrian crisis is putting an end to the bloodshed that began in early 2011, a minister said.
The United Nations estimates that more than 60,000 people have died in the civil war that began in Syria in early 2011. Efforts to find a solution to the crisis at the U.N. Security Council have been impeded by concerns from veto-wielding Russia that draft resolutions lacked balance.
Support for an opposition council formed last year in Qatar is growing as war descends on Damascus.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday, however, that Moscow's interest don't rest with political issues.
"For us, the priority is not the achievement of any geopolitical goals, such as overthrowing the regime," he was quoted by state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying. "For us, the priority is the stabilization of the situation and an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible."
The minister said he was critical of the Syrian opposition, saying it was in part to blame for fighting. The Russian Embassy in Damascus, he added, remains open and the Kremlin was supporting any Russian citizen that wishes to leave Syria.
"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.