Russia accuses West of blackmail on Syria

2012-07-16 14:01
AP

AP

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Moscow - Russia on Monday accused the West of effectively trying to use blackmail to secure a new UN Security Council resolution that would authorise the use of force in Syria.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comments came ahead of a meeting with Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League envoy for Syria whose plan for halting the fighting is weakening amid escalating violence.

The council is debating a new resolution on Syria, spurred by the 20 July expiration of the mandate for the UN observer force there and the failure of the Annan plan.

Russia and Britain have circulated rival texts. The Western-backed British draft threatens non-military sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's government if it doesn't withdraw troops and heavy weapons from population centres within 10 days.

The proposed resolution is under the UN Charter's Chapter 7, which can be enforced militarily.

Russia opposes any resolution that can be enforced militarily.

17 000 killed

"To our great regret, there are elements of blackmail," Lavrov said at a news conference. "We are being told that if you do not agree to passing the resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, then we shall refuse to extend the mandate of the monitoring mission."

"We consider it to be an absolutely counterproductive and dangerous approach, since it is unacceptable to use monitors as bargaining chips," he said.

Throughout the 16-month Syrian crisis, in which activists say about 17 000 people have been killed in fighting between Assad's forces and opposition groupings, Russia has adamantly opposed international military intervention, fearing a repeat of the type of international action that helped drive Libya's Muammar Gaddafi out of power.

That position has put Moscow under intense criticism. Russia has rejected the criticism by saying it does not overtly support Assad, Russia's longtime ally, and by strongly backing Annan's plan.

Russia says any change of power in Syria must be achieved through negotiation, but the Syrian opposition has repeatedly said no negotiations with the Assad regime are possible unless he first leaves power.

Lavrov reiterated Moscow's position on Monday, saying it was unrealistic to try to persuade Assad to resign.

Dismay

"He won't leave, not because we are defending him, but simply because a very significant part of the population in Syria stands behind him," he said.

Comments by Annan last week indicated he favours the British resolution draft and it was unclear if he would have any significant leverage to exert on Russia during his two-day trip to Moscow, which also includes a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

Lavrov said he would not characterise the situation as a stalemate, but expressed dismay with the continuing fighting.

"What is happening in Syria is horrible," he said.

Meanwhile Reuters reported on Monday that Morocco said it had asked the Syrian ambassador to leave the North African country and declared him persona non grata, calling for a transition to democracy that would meet the Syrian people's aspirations for freedom.

Ambassador expelled


The expulsion followed the defection last week of Syria's ambassador to Iraq and the flight the week before of a prominent general once close to Assad - developments that Western officials said showed that Assad was losing his grip on power as the rebellion against him drags on.

Earlier on Monday, rumours had circulated that the ambassador to Rabat, Nabih Ismail, had also defected to the rebel side. A Syrian embassy official denied this but had no further comment.

Morocco recalled its own ambassador to Damascus in November 2011 and Monday's decision was the latest in a series of diplomatic expulsions that has seen Damascus increasingly isolated as anti-Assad rebels gain strength.

In May, the United States, France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Bulgaria and Switzerland all kicked out Syrian diplomats in response to a massacre of 108 people in the town of Houla in May. Japan followed suit.

Morocco's North African neighbours Tunisia and Libya, which saw their own dictators swept away in last year's Arab Spring uprisings, expelled Syrian diplomats as far back as February.

- AP
Read more on:    un  |  kofi annan  |  bashar assad  |  us  |  russia  |  uk  |  syria  |  uprisings  |  syria conflict
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