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Annan plan ‘only chance for peace’ but stalled by intervention supporters - Lavrov

Published time: June 09, 2012 12:13
Edited time: June 09, 2012 21:12

Sergey Lavrov (Reuters/Denis Sinyakov)

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External players are goading opposition in Syria to military action; this may lead to a Libyan scenario, the Russian Foreign Minister says. Moscow is calling for an international conference “under the UN umbrella” to implement the Annan plan.

The situation in Syria has significantly worsened in the past weeks as two massacres left dozens of civilians dead. 

Speaking with journalists in Moscow, the Foreign Minister voiced concern about “the reaction on the part of some foreign players”, who, he said, “support armed groups of the opposition and at the same time demand that the international community take decisive steps to change the regime in Syria.”

Lavrov also stressed that Russia has enough evidence about arms being supplied to the Syrian opposition.

“Our Saudi colleagues, our Qatari colleagues…just yesterday, there was a forum for businessmen who want to support the Syrian opposition. All this information is openly available,” he said.

The main reason the peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan is stalling is because those who support external intervention in Syria impede its implementation, said the Russian Foreign Minister.

Lavrov said the plan is not progressing because certain parties “don’t like” the idea of the stabilization it can bring. “They want the international community to be filled with indignation and start a full-blown intervention in Syria,” he said.

UN charter vs. ‘might is right’

Lavrov said the Syrian government is responsible for people’s security and human rights, as well as for everything that is going on in the country. Nevertheless, tragedies like Houla and the other numerous violent acts are a result of confrontation, which is increasingly actively supported by external forces.

He reiterated Russia’s position that it will “never agree to sanction the use of force in the UN Security Council”. He said that this would lead “to severe consequences for the entire Middle East region”.

Lavrov stressed that Russia does not protect the regime, but does protect chances to achieve stability in the region. “The way the Syrian crisis is resolved will play an important role in the world tomorrow; whether the world will be based on the UN charter, or a place where might makes right,” he added.

Lavrov called Western countries’ attempts to insert a deadline for implementation of the Annan plan a veiled attempt to push an ultimatum on the Syrian authorities.

Earlier, Washington had stated its intent to seek the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution calling for the use of military force against Syria if the Assad government shows no immediate progress in implementing Annan’s plan.

Lavrov said that in order to justify a foreign intervention certain parties “keep talking about the refugees from Syria. However, nobody talks about refugees inside Syria itself.”

“This is similar to the former Yugoslavia. Does anybody think about the refugees from Serbia and Slovenia?” he enquired.

Referring to the UN commissioner, Lavrov said the number of refugees from Syria currently stands at around 80,000. He stressed that these people all need support.

But at the same time, according to some estimates, there are about a million refugees from Iraq and half a million Palestinians in Syria, and “people don’t talk much about that,” Lavrov said.

He added that those who want to see military intervention in Syria want to change the delicate situation with different religious groups. They want to use Syria to fight for domination in the Arab world, Lavrov said, adding that Russia will do everything it can to prevent this.

Lavrov told journalists that Russia has heard from its citizens living in Syria, and from reporters who work there, that the opposition is persecuting people loyal to Assad.

He stressed that Moscow has information showing that the Syrian opposition is acting under the command of external forces.

“There are enough data witnessing that the armed opposition is being supplied with weapons and other means which are necessary to maintain combat capability,” he said.

 'Blocking Syrian TV unacceptable'

Speaking about media coverage of the events in Syria, Lavrov said that “blocking Syrian government and private channels from broadcasting” does not “square well with freedom of speech.”

He also recalled the case of UK journalist Alex Thomson, who reported that Syrian rebels set him and his crew up to be killed by Syrian troops in a bid to show Damascus in a negative light.

“We should all be on the same page regarding freedom of speech and how it should be respected by the international community to ensure access to information – no matter what kind of information it is,” Lavrov said.

In early June, Arab League foreign ministers demanded that the two main Arab satellite TV providers, Arabsat and Nilesat, block all Syrian channels as a way of further isolating the Assad regime.

Syrian television officials called the demand an unprecedented assault on media freedom in the Arab world, and a brazen attempt to conceal the reality of what is happening in Syria.

Moscow conference to help implement Annan's plan

Moscow has proposed an international conference on the Syrian crisis and expressed hope that all the parties which can influence the issue will take part.

Russia insists that the conference's primary aim is not in substituting the role of the UN, but in supporting Annan’s plan and encouraging dialogue between the state and the armed opposition.

“The conference should come under the UN umbrella,” said Lavrov, adding that the global discussion would not be a one-off event.

With some western countries calling to ban Iran from the international conference on Syria, Lavrov said to dismiss Tehran “would be thoughtless at the very least”.The FM listed Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Iran, the League of Arab States, the EU and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation among the “integral parts” to the process.