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Russia senses blackmail in Western stance regarding Syria


by Joseph Earnest  July 16, 2012                   


Newscast Media MOSCOWRussia sees "elements of blackmail" in the West's linking of new sanctions against Syria with the extension of the international observer mission there, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday, and said it was unrealistic to expect Moscow to force President Assad to step down.

"To our great distress, we see elements of blackmail," Lavrov said. "They tell us, if you don't give us an agreement on accepting the [UN Security Council] resolution  on Article 7 of the United Nations, then we will refuse to prolong the UN Observer Mission mandate," he added, ahead of a meeting with the UN's special envoy on Syria, Kofi Annan. The unarmed observers were sent to Syria following a UN Security Council vote in April, to observe compliance with Annan's peace plan.

Moscow thinks such an approach "is absolutely counterproductive and dangerous because to use the observers as bargaining chips is inadmissable," Lavrov said.

On Wednesday, Britain, France and Germany presented the UN Security Council with a draft resolution which coordinated an extension of the UN Observer mission in Syria with the fulfillment by the Syrian government of a series of demands within ten days, including an end to use of heavy weapons.

The draft included introduction of a series of diplomatic and economic sanctions against Damascus if it failed to carry out the resolution’s demands, in line with Article Seven of the UN Charter, which allows the Council to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression" and to take military and nonmilitary action to "restore international peace and security".

Russia declared that it would not accept the western draft project and presented its draft document which included an extension of the observer mission for another three months to carry out the Kofi Annan plan to resolve the conflict.

Lavrov also dismissed as "unrealistic" calls by Western powers for it to use its influence to persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand down as leader of the violence-stricken Middle East country.

"They tell us that we should persuade Assad to step down of his own free will. This is simply unrealistic," Lavrov said. "He will not leave - not because we are protecting him, but because he has the support of a very significant part of the country's population."

"We will accept any decision by the Syrian people on who will govern Syria, as long as it comes from the Syrians themselves," Russia's top diplomat added.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that both Russia and China would "pay a price" for what she said was their support for Assad. Western powers have repeatedly accused both countries of protecting the embattled Syria leader.

The Kremlin is continuing to push Annan’s six-point peace plan as the only way to bring an end to the spiral of violence in Syria, despite the failure of a ceasefire stipulated under the deal, which rebel forces have said they will no longer abide by. Annan’s plan does not call for Assad’s departure.

"We need to pressure both the regime and the opposition to make them stop the violence," Lavrov said, adding that Russia had been able to persuade the Syrian armed opposition to drop what he said were "radical demands."

"They are continuing to talk about a revolution," he said. Lavrov held talks with two Syrian opposition groups last week.

Russia – along with China - has refused to support Western-backed UN resolutions on Syria that it says betray a pro-rebel bias and which could leave the door open for foreign military intervention against the Assad regime. Putin vowed earlier this year not to allow a repeat of the “Libya scenario,” which saw the ouster and murder of long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi after a NATO military campaign.   

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 Source: RIA Novosti






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