Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov listens during a press conference with United Arab Emirates' Foreign Minister and Arab League Secretary General in Abu Dhabi on February 1, 2017 (Photo: AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Wednesday for Syria's return to the Arab League, saying its membership would allow the organisation to help find a political solution to the country's conflict.
"The League could play a more important, more effective role if the Syrian government was part of the organisation," Lavrov, whose country is a key ally of the Damascus regime and also a broker in peace efforts, told a press conference in the Emirati capital.
He said Syria was a "legitimate" member of the United Nations and yet "cannot take part in discussions inside the Arab League".
"This does not help our joint (peace) efforts," said Lavrov.
But Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit, speaking at the same press conference, ruled out an early return of Syria to the Cairo-based organisation.
Any decision was up to the League's 21 other members, he said, adding that the issue was not on the current agenda and would only be raised when "a political settlement" was in sight for Syria's almost six-year-old civil war.
The Arab League suspended Syria's membership at the end of 2011 following months of brutal repression of anti-regime demonstrations and an opposition movement supported by Gulf monarchies.
Turning to new US President Donald Trump's proposal of establishing safe zones for refugees in Syria and Yemen, another war-torn Arab nation, Lavrov expressed scepticism.
"The Trump administration still has to work out a concrete approach. The idea of safe zones was studied at the onset of the Syrian crisis, something that would reproduce the sad experience of Libya," he said.
"Everyone understood this when Libya was destroyed," the Russian foreign minister said.
But Lavrov said he remained convinced that Russia could "re-establish a complete and regular dialogue with the United States to lead to pragmatic results towards settling the situation in Syria, Libya and Yemen".
He said such cooperation would "not be dictated by the ideology of democratisation for example", referring to the role of past US administrations in the overthrow of dictators such as Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.