Athens - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday blasted critics of a US-Russia initiative for a peace conference on Syria, warning that toppling the Assad regime militarily posed a "huge threat" to the area.
"Open objections have surfaced against holding this Russia-US meeting [dubbed Geneva II], not only among Syrian sides but also among capitals, both in neighbouring and non-neighbouring states," Lavrov said during a visit to Athens, according to the official translation.
"We must not allow this initiative to fizzle out," he added, arguing that the overthrowing of President Bashar Assad's regime through military means would create an "extremist" state and pose a "huge threat to those living in Syria and the area".
Since the start of the conflict in March 2011, Damascus has systematically branded the uprising-turned-rebellion as a foreign-backed plot.
Washington and Moscow have struggled to win support for peace talks in Geneva from the warring parties in Syria, where more than 115 000 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict.
In the latest blow to peace efforts, 19 Islamist groups fighting to topple Assad issued a statement Sunday saying the Geneva conference "is not, nor will it ever be our people's choice or our revolution's demand".