Russia: West distorting Syria deal

2012-07-03 22:55
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Damascus - Russia accused the West on Tuesday of seeking to distort an agreement for a political transition in Syria, after international peace envoy Kofi Annan said a ceasefire was imperative.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hailed the Geneva accord based on proposals by Annan as an "important step" but said that Western capitals had read more into the final statement than what was written on paper.

"These [Geneva] agreements are not there to be interpreted. They mean exactly what is said in the communique and we need to follow the agreements that were made," he said.

His comments came soon after Annan spokesperson Ahmad Fawzi told reporters a "shift" in positions by Russia and its diplomatic ally China at the Geneva talks should not be underestimated.

On Saturday, world powers agreed a plan for a transition in Syria that did not make an explicit call for President Bashar Assad to quit power, but the West swiftly made clear it saw no role for Assad in a unity government.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Russia will not attend a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Paris on Friday aimed at coordinating Western and Arab efforts to stop the violence in the country.

"Russia was invited. They made it known that they did not want to participate, which is not a surprise," he told reporters. Russia, a traditional ally of Syria, and China did not attend any previous meetings of the group.

In Washington, state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the Russians were free to decide whether to attend the Paris talks or not.

"It's their choice. We think this is a very valuable forum that brings together a much larger group of countries. The door is open to them if they want to join. It's up to them if they don't," Nuland told reporters.

"From our perspective, [this] meeting is important and will add energy and lift to this effort to come to a post-transition strategy" in Syria.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead the US delegation, an official said, with Nuland saying more than 100 countries would be attend the talks "to support change and democracy and pluralism" in Syria.

The Paris meeting will be the third such gathering after one in Tunis in February and another in April in Istanbul called for tougher action against the Assad regime.


UN human rights chief Navi Pillay warned that foreign arms deliveries to both government and opposition are fuelling a conflict that rights monitors say has killed more than 16 500 people since March last year.

Pillay said both sides were guilty of "serious" rights violations, adding that "any further militarisation of the conflict must be avoided at all costs".

But a pro-Damascus Palestinian militant leader said the Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah and Iran would fight alongside the Syrian regime if it is attacked by foreign forces.

In the event of "a foreign attack, we discussed with our brothers (in the Syrian regime), with (Hezbollah chief) Hassan Nasrallah and our brothers in Iran, we will be part of this battle," said Ahmed Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

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