NATO’s interference in the conflict between the Muammar Gaddafi regime supporters and the Libyan opposition has increased the number of casualties among civilians, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.
"Members of the international community, first of all our Western partners, have chosen the path of supporting one of the sides in the civil war – probably the party that represented the Libyan people's legitimate aspirations, but this still increased the number of casualties among the civilianpopulation," Lavrov said, cites Interfax. Russia’s top diplomat was speaking at a media conference in Moscow after talks with his Djiboutian counterpart.
Lavrov pointed out that the UN resolutions on Libya called for measures that would protect civilians in the conflict-torn North African state, “but the result was slightly different, to say the least,” he added.
The minister stressed that Moscow does not accept “invocations” heard from the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels that NATO’s intervention saved “a countless number of lives.”
“This is wishful thinking,” Lavrov said.
A day earlier, NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that in Libya “we and our allies have been remarkably successful. We have saved countless lives and helped the Libyan people take their destiny into their own hands," reported AP.
Speaking at the media conference on Thursday, the Russian Foreign Minister underlined that violence that the Libyan authorities used against civilians was unacceptable. However, Lavrov went on, “the evil should be fought fairly” and “lawlessness cannot be eradicated by violating the international law”.
He pointed out that at the initial stage of the Libyan crisis there were opportunities to stop the bloodshed and bring the conflicting sides to the negotiating table. This is what the African Union’s efforts – which Russia supported – were aimed at.
Commenting after a question on Moscow’s stance considering the possibility of military force against Syrian authorities, Lavrov said that Russia proceeds from the UN Charter, “which envisions the use of force only in the cases mentioned in the Charter.” The document permits the use of force in self-defense or if authorized by the UN Security Council.
Earlier this week, Russia along with China vetoed the UN resolution on Syria, urging political dialogue instead of proposed tough sanctions on Bashar Assad's regime.
Sergey Lavrov also touched upon the situation in Yemen, where the uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule has been going on since February. Hundreds of Yemenis have been killed and thousands more injured in the government’s violent crackdown on the protesters.
"It is important as soon as possible to encourage the sides [of the conflict] to conclude an agreement that would allow them to move forward toward national reconciliation and to overcome today’s very deep crisis," Lavrov said.
Across the Gulf of Aden, in Somalia, the situation has remained highly unstable causing concern for the international community as the war-torn African nation faces severe famine and political crisis. According to Sergey Lavrov, the threat of complete dissolution of the country is increasing and Moscow supports the African Union’s (AU) efforts on the Somali settlement.
"The position of the central government in Somalia – both in general and territorially – is very weak,” he said after the talks with Djibouti Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Yusuf. “The threat of the complete collapse of the country is becoming real and all the efforts of the international community are aimed at preventing this.”
According to the Russian FM, no one needs “the domino effect” which would be inevitable. “It is neither in the interests of Africans nor their friends,” Lavrov observed.
The African Union – an organization consisting of 54 African states – is a key player in the Somali settlement, Lavrov said. He added that Russia will continue making contribution to training the AU peacekeeping contingents.
“The peacekeeping situation of the AU in Somalia under the auspice of the UN Security Council is a key instrument for settling the conflict," he stated, as cited by Itar-Tass.
The Russian minister pointed out thought that the situations in Libya and Somalia should not be compared as they are “different things.”
Sergey Lavrov stressed that it is crucially important for all “external players” to respect states located in one or another conflict area.
“In this particular case Africa’s opinion is decisive for us. It is their region and the countries of the region know better what methods should be used in order not to harm but to try to achieve peace and save as many lives as possible,” Lavrov said.