Putin vows to fully back Annan on Syria

2012-07-17 22:38
Russian President Vladimir Putin, listens to Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League envoy for the Syrian crisis, during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service, AP/RIA-Novosti)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, listens to Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League envoy for the Syrian crisis, during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service, AP/RIA-Novosti)

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Moscow  -Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed on Tuesday to do everything to support Kofi Annan's plan for ending the violence in Syria that the UN-Arab League envoy said had reached "unacceptable" proportions.

Annan arrived for his first meeting with the Kremlin chief since Putin's return for a third term, hoping to avert a new Moscow veto of a Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against Russia's ally.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the 90-minute meeting that he could "see no reason why we cannot also agree at the UN Security Council. We are ready for this".

But neither Putin nor other Russian official offered any sign that they were ready to take a harder line with President Bashar al-Assad or compromise on punitive measures against the regime's brutal use of force.

"From the very start, from the first steps, we supported and continue to support your efforts aimed at restoring civil peace," Putin told Annan at the start of their talks.

"We will do everything that depends on us to support your efforts," the Russian leader said.

Annan's three-month-old peace initiative - never implemented amid recently escalating violence - is now up against a Friday deadline for a UN monitors mission to either wind down or receive an extension from the Security Council.

Western powers have scheduled a vote on the mission for Wednesday extending its mandate for 45 days but also giving Assad 10 days to pull heavy military equipment out of cities or face economic sanctions.

"The Council, I expect, will be sending out a message that the killings must stop and that the situation on the ground is unacceptable," Annan said.

No penalty

"Hopefully, the Council will come together in a united manner and press ahead in search of peace," he added.

Russia has vowed to block the measure in the same manner that it has two previous resolutions that threatened penalties against its main Middle East ally for violence that activists believe has claimed more than 17 000 lives.

Moscow has proposed its own draft that would extend UN mission's mandate for another three months without penalising Assad in any manner.

Western powers believe Russia's measure lacks backing from the nine required members on the 15-seat Council.

A failure to reach compromise and extend the mission's deadline would put a halt to a key component of an Annan initiative that intends to gradually help set up a Syrian transition government acceptable to all sides.

Russia has insisted that it is not helping Assad - whose government it continues to supply with arms despite the fighting - but advocating global laws that prevent big powers from interfering in the affairs of smaller states.

Moscow has seen several of its friends swept from power during the Arab Spring revolutions and was furious when Nato attacked ally Libya last year citing a loosely worded UN resolution that Russia decided not to block.

A top Russian daily said Putin had recently told a meeting of Russian envoys in Moscow that he intends to make sure that Western powers do not implement a regime change in Syria with the use of sanctions or force.

"The manner in which the Syrian crisis is resolved will largely determine the model the world community uses to respond to future internal conflicts of nations," the Kommersant business broadsheet quoted Putin as telling the meeting.

Read more on:    bashar al-assad  |  vladimir putin  |  syria  |  russia  |  uprisings  |  syria conflict
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