Assad foes fail to budge Russia on Syria |
Arab News - 12 July, 2012
Syria’s main opposition group on Wednesday failed to convince Russia to drop its support for long-time ally President Bashar Assad, as fresh clashes across the country challenged his beleaguered regime.
Ahead of a briefing to the UN Security Council by peace envoy Kofi Annan, Russia refuses to shift its stand on the crisis, the Syrian National Council (SNC) said after talks in Moscow with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Abdel Basset Sayda, head of the exiled SNC, reacted angrily to the failure.
“We reject the Russian policy — however it is presented — as this policy of supporting the regime is allowing the violence to continue,” Sayda told reporters after the talks.
“We have not seen a development in the Russian position. I was here one year ago and the position has not changed,” said senior SNC official Burhan Ghalioun, Sayda’s predecessor.
Sixteen months into a conflict which monitors say has cost more than 17,000 lives, mostly civilians, rebel fighters and regime forces clashed in the Damascus district of Qadam, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, but gave no further details.
In the commercial hub of Aleppo, at least two soldiers were killed as rebels attacked a checkpoint overnight, the Britain-based watchdog said.
The Observatory also reported an attack in the northwestern province of Idlib on a bus transporting soldiers, killing as many as 11 troops although the exact number was impossible to verify.
It added that 82 people were killed in violence across Syria on Tuesday: 30 civilians, 26 soldiers and 26 rebels.
Abdel Basset Sayda, the SNC’s new head, earlier compared the conflict in his country to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
“The events in Syria are not disagreements between the opposition and the government but a revolution,” Sayda told Lavrov, whose country has seen itself cast as the last protector of its Arab ally, Syria.
Underlining the gulf between the SNC and Moscow, Lavrov said Russia wanted to understand in the talks if there were “prospects” of the opposition groups uniting and joining a platform for dialogue with the Syrian government.
Russia is Assad’s main ally apart from Iran and has fiercely resisted international action against the Damascus government as proposed by Washington and European powers.
Moscow has repeatedly said Assad’s fate is up to the Syrian people and defied calls by the West and the SNC to urge him to step down.
On Tuesday, Moscow proposed a Security Council resolution on Syria that would extend the UN observer mission in the country without any threat of sanctions, diplomats in New York said.
The resolution was sent to the council’s other 14 members ahead of a briefing on Wednesday by UN-Arab League envoy Annan on efforts to revive his peace plan, Russia’s deputy UN envoy Igor Pankin told reporters.
The French foreign ministry said however the proposed resolution does not meet the expectations of the international community.
“It is clear that the Russian resolution is below the expectations of most of the international community,” ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in Paris.
Valero said the resolution did not go far enough and that it was “essential to immediately implement ... a full transfer of executive powers to a transitional body able to establish the neutral environment needed for the democratic transition.”
A senior Russian official said meanwhile that Moscow would fulfil a contract to deliver air defense systems to Syria and had no plans to impose an arms embargo on its Soviet-era ally despite growing pressure from the West.
“Russia has obligations before Syria relating to old contracts — contracts that were signed in 2008 and were later followed by new ones on air defense systems,” the Russian Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation’s deputy chief Vyacheslav Dzirkaln said.
“They are being fulfilled and they will be fulfilled,” he told Russian news agencies on the sidelines of the Farnborough Airshow near London.
On Tuesday, Annan warned that the conflict could spread across the region as he held talks in Iran and Iraq aimed at shoring up support for his tattered peace plan, starting with an April cease-fire that has failed to materialize.
But in an implicit rebuff, the United States renewed its opposition to any role for Tehran in resolving the conflict.
“I don’t think anybody with a straight face could argue that Iran has had a positive impact on developments in Syria,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Wednesday said a key problem is the flow of illegal weapons into Syria, stressing the need to control Syrian borders.
“During the negotiations we insisted on the need to control Syrian borders in order to stop arms from being smuggled into that country,” IRNA news agency quoted the official as saying a day after Annan had talks in Tehran.