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Syrian opposition victory possible, but at unacceptable price – Moscow

Published time: December 13, 2012 09:56
Edited time: December 13, 2012 17:00
A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon towards a Syrian military warplane (not pictured) in Aleppo's al-Amereya district December 12, 2012. (Reuters/Saleh Anadani)

A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon towards a Syrian military warplane (not pictured) in Aleppo's al-Amereya district December 12, 2012. (Reuters/Saleh Anadani)

Moscow has admitted the possibility that the Syrian opposition may emerge victorious as government forces continue to lose more territory as the conflict rages on, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said.

“We must face the facts: the current tendency shows that the government is progressively losing control over an increasing part of the territory,'' Bogdanov told the Public Chamber. “An opposition victory can't be ruled out."

The Deputy Foreign Minister warned that Syria would most likely suffer heavy casualties from the ensuing violence.

"The fighting will become even more intense, and (Syria) will lose tens of thousands and, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of civilians,'' he warned. "If such a price for the removal of the president seems acceptable to you, what can we do? We, of course, consider it absolutely unacceptable.''

Bogdanov, addressing the “behaviour by some of our partners,” pointed to the disturbing incidence of arms supplies flowing into the embattled country, which he warned “incite the Syrian rebels to make a stake on using force.”

These developments only lead to escalating violence, which hinder the implementation of the goals [the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis], the high-ranking diplomat added.

Other Russian officials also weighed in on the deteriorating situation in Syria following the Friends of Syria meeting, which was held in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Wednesday. The delegates officially recognized the ‘National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces’ as the only representative of the Syrian people.

Alexei Pushkov, the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, believes the decision makes the prospects for a peaceful resolution to the conflict exceedingly grim.

"Recognition of the Syrian opposition as ‘legitimate’ authorities by the ‘Friends of Syria’ gives up on any attempts to find a political solution. The only option now is war," Pushkov wrote on his Twitter account on Thursday.

Many Russian diplomats view this latest development as a major setback in the Syrian conflict, arguing that the newly recognized coalition does not adequately represent the political will of the Syrian people.

Pushkov then hinted at what could transpire in the event that the militants resort to violence against Russian consulate officials and civilians in the region.

"Syrian militants have threatened to attack the embassies of Russia and Ukraine in Damascus to ‘take care of’ the Russians. The US sends special operations forces in such cases," he warned.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said recognition of the opposition coalition hinders efforts to establish a smooth political transition in Syria.

"As the coalition has been recognized as the only legitimate representative, it seems that the United States decided to place all bets on the armed victory of this very national coalition," Lavrov said.

Moscow, which warned its western partners that “Syria is not Libya,” is fiercely opposed to any outside military interference in the conflict.

Meanwhile, Interfax-AVN, quoting a military-diplomatic source, reported if the situation in Syria becomes critical they are prepared to help Russians there.

"If the situation in Syria becomes critical, we have plans for evacuating Russians living there,” he said. “First of all, we are talking about sea transport, which could be sent to the Syrian coast under the guard of naval ships. Emergency Situations Ministry aircraft could also be used, as was the case when Russian oilmen were evacuated from Iraq.”

Evacuation plans do exist, but no decisions have yet been made, the source added.

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