Lavrov Hopes for Talks with Clinton in Munich
MOSCOW, February 3 (RIA Novosti)
Grigory Sysoev

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said he hopes to hold bilateral talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the global security conference that begins in Munich on Friday.

“We always try to meet when we take part in international conferences,” Lavrov told journalists on Thursday upon his return to Moscow from an Asia-Pacific tour.

“We have been working to arrange a meeting on the sidelines of the Munich conference,” he said.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Thursday the Munich conference provided a “good opportunity” for such a meeting, although he said no particular talks had been scheduled.

The 38th Munich Security Conference will run on February 3-5. A diplomatic source told RIA Novosti issues related to European missile defense and the situation in Syria would become the main topics during the Russian-U.S. talks, should they take place.

Lavrov said on Tuesday he was amazed by the hullabaloo over his failure to discuss a UN Syria resolution with Clinton. His remarks came after Nuland said earlier in the day that Clinton had tried to reach Lavrov by telephone for about 24 hours but he was "apparently unavailable" while on visit to Australia.

Lavrov said he was busy negotiating with his Australian partners, adding that he and Clinton would talk later.

The BBC reported on Thursday that the UN Security Council diplomats have toned down a resolution on Syria in a move apparently aimed at overcoming Russia’s opposition to an earlier draft. According to the report, the new text, submitted by Morocco, no longer explicitly calls on President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power, which was a key point of an Arab League plan to settle the Syrian conflict.

Moscow has been one of Assad's staunchest supporters during the ten-month-long uprising against his regime. Russia along with China already vetoed a European-drafted resolution containing the threat of sanctions against Syria in October 2011.
At least 5,400 people have been killed in the Syrian government's crackdown on protesters, according to the UN. Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda and say more than 2,000 soldiers and police have been killed.