Russia: UN risk taking sides in Syrian civil war

Russian FM says he sent UN resolution amendments to Clinton, UN representatives; UNSC to vote on resolution.

By REUTERS
February 4, 2012 11:24
2 minute read.
United Nations Security Council

United Nations Security Council 311 (R). (photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)

 
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MUNICH/MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday a draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria was "not hopeless" but must be amended to avoid giving the impression that the world body was taking sides in a civil war.

He warned of a "scandal" if the Security Council voted on the current version at 3:00 p.m. GMT on Saturday as scheduled. Lavrov met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Munich Security Conference to discuss the changes Moscow wants.

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"We are not saying that this resolution is hopeless," the Russian minister told a meeting of security policymakers and experts in Germany.

Clinton, asked by reporters if there had been progress in her conversations with Lavrov, said: "We're working on it."

Russia's main objection to the draft resolution is that it sets down measures to be taken against the government of President Bashar Assad, but not against what Lavrov said were armed groups who were manipulating peaceful protesters.

"Unless you do it both ways, you are taking sides in a civil war," Lavrov told the conference, saying the current draft "does not suit us at all" and warning of "a scandal" if it goes to the vote, suggesting that Russia could veto it.

The diplomatic manoeuvres were made more urgent by reports from Syrian activists on Saturday that more than 200 people had been killed in shelling by government forces in the city of Homs, ahead the UN vote.

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The Security Council draft resolution expresses "full support" for an Arab League plan that calls for Assad to cede power.

Western and Arab nations, who have pushed for Assad to give up power after an 11-month government crackdown that the United Nations says has led to more than 5,000 deaths, are struggling to overcome Russian resistance to Security Council action.

Earlier drafts have already been modified in response to the concerns of Russia, which has relied on Assad for a foothold in the Middle East. Russia sells weapons to Assad, who has hosted a Russian naval maintenance facility on the Mediterranean - the only Russian military base outside the former Soviet Union.

"We support the call of the Syrian people for change," said Lavrov, adding that Russia had no special attachment to Assad.

But Russia and China vetoed a European-drafted resolution on Syria in October and Lavrov said the latest draft ignored the fact that the peaceful protesters were "more and more being used by armed groups to create trouble".

The resolution made "more specific demands" of the Assad government than of such groups and condemned the former more than the latter, said Lavrov. It left the door open to outside intervention rather than ensuring a home-grown Syrian solution and appeared to predetermine the results of any action, he said.

Questioned about Russia arms sales to the Assad regime, Lavrov said his country did not sell Syria the kind of small arms that could be used in internal civil conflict, and that any weapons it sold Syria could not disturb the balance of military power in the Middle East, which was tipped towards Israel.

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