Russian foreign minister tells West 'don't isolate Assad'

ISTANBUL - In an implicit warning to international supporters of Syrian opposition forces, Russia's foreign minister said on Wednesday that efforts to isolate one side in the conflict would wreck the chances of a negotiated solution.
Sergei Lavrov said the Friends of Syria group, which is meeting in Istanbul this weekend, had so far had a negative influence on implementing a 2012 accord among world powers aimed at resolving the war through talks with all sides.
Friends of Syria links the United States, European powers, Turkey and Gulf Arab states who support the opposition and have demanded that President Bashar Assad surrender power.
Russia, which along with Iran is Assad's main backer, says Assad must be part of any negotiated settlement. The 2012 Geneva accord left open the question of his exact fate.
Lavrov said that getting rid of the Assad government as a precondition for dialogue among Syrians was unrealistic to end a conflict which has killed more than 70,000 people.