Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, spoke at a joint press conference alongside British Foreign Secretary, William Hague. In his statement, Lavrov openly condemned opposition forces, citing that they and Bashar al-Assad’s regime are responsible for the fighting that resulted in over 100 civilian casualties in the cities of Hama and Houla.
While Russia has backed the UN Security Council in criticizing the heavy artillery attack on the city of Houla by the Syrian government, it has also pointed out that Assad’s regime is not the only party responsible.
Russia sided with Syria’s position that terror groups like al-Qaida also contribute to the non-stop violence. Russia continues to sell a cache of weaponry to Assad, who is a vital ally to the Kremlins.
In the midst of the violence and fatalities, Lavrov did try to distance the Kremlin for Assad’s regime and added that its foremost priority is to put a halt to the bloodshed, so that Syrians can establish a stable government.
Lavrov and Hague called for both sides to agree to a cease fire and to return to the negotiating table. This ensures that plans for the six-point peace plan – which is vital for putting an end to the Syrian conflict – can move forward. Hague added that without the plan, Syria is doomed to bloody civil war.
While Lavrov emphasized that an end to violence is the main objective, he also directed the weight of the blame to outside forces, which he says have been encouraging opposition parties to fight in order to force other nations to intervene.
Lavrov admitted that the massacre at Houla was largely due to artillery shelling from the government. However, he also pointed to a number of civilian deaths that came at the hands of small arms gun fire, which he claims came from the opposition.
Russia’s position on Syria has put the country at odds with the West. Russia is opposed to direct intervention in sovereign nations and has reportedly balked at sanctions imposed against Syria by the West.
Almost a full year after the violence and clashes in Syria began, things seem to be moving very slowly. Again this week violence erupted in the region of Deraa, a city housing several rebel strongholds. This comes just a day after the country’s president Bashar Assad made an offer to hold a referendum about a new constitution, and bring new elections within 90 days. The offer drew a lot of criticism, and was rejected but by the rebel leaders and other countries. Meanwhile, it seems like the violence isn’t slowing down, and civilians remain trapped in the cross fire.
This is all happening while a recent UN Security Council resolution was rejected by Russia, and while France is said to be negotiating with the world power to bring a new resolution forward. One of the goals of that new resolution would be to create corridors so that civilians can flee the violence. Meanwhile however, it seems like Assad isn’t slowing down in trying to uproot the rebellion, with weapons mostly supplied from countries like Russia and China. This latest country published an opinion article in the newspaper People’s Daily, a government sponsored paper often used as mouth piece by the communist party, saying that Middle East conflicts need to be handled in a realistic manner. The paper said “The Middle East is the world’s most important fuel depot. If gripped by chaos, oil prices would skyrocket, shocking the stock market, financial systems and economies.”
Meanwhile on the ground, it’s hard to know exactly what goes on since Syria tightly restrict media access. The authorities there have no comments, but reports from another recent attack by the Syrian military against civilians in the region of Hama produced over 5 dead and 50 wounded within 36 hours due to heavy shelling and sniper fire. The military has been using artillery against the city for the 13th day in a row, attempting to drive out rebels. At the UN however, things seem to still be at a deadlock, with France arguing for a resolution that would call for humanitarian action, and Russia worried that the Security Council would call for a regime change, saying “If the plan is to use the Security Council and United Nations to adopt some language to help legitimize regime change, then I’m afraid international law does not allow this and we cannot support such an approach.” The Arab League wants a UN backed peacekeeper force on the ground, but that is also unlikely to happen until Russia and China change their minds.
There’s no question that a human tragedy is happening on the ground in Syria, and while the government in power there kills civilians by the thousands, very little is done from other countries, who spend most of their times in arguments and discussions, with national interests often blocking any progress towards a resolution. Meanwhile, people will keep dying.
NATO is considering a no-fly zone in Syria after Bashar al-Assad, warned that any western intervention would cause an “earthquake” which would “burn the whole region…” reported the guardian.
Some Syrian anti-government groups have called on the west to defend them as fighting between security forces and armed protesters continues to escalate – however a war like the one that will end in Libya on Monday is doubtful.
The UN security council would have to approve any operation in Syria – a step which would be unlikely given Chinese and Russian opposition. “We would need a clear mandate from the international community, as well as support from the Arab League and Syria’s neighbours,” a NATO official said, adding that so far “no-one had asked” for NATO’s help.
NATO’s reluctance to get embroiled in Syria’s internal conflict came as Assad warned that outside intervention in his country’s affairs could lead to “another Afghanistan.”
On Sunday, a Syrian delegation met in Doha with an Arab League ministerial committee. On 16 October the league gave Damascus a 15-day deadline to put in place a ceasefire, that is over on Sunday. Since then 343 people have been killed, including 40 last Friday, one of the worst days of bloodshed since the uprising began.
Protests have intensified amidst events in the Arab world: the brutal death of Muammar Gaddafi, and Tunisia’s successful democratic elections last week. In a show of support for Assad’s regime on Sunday thousands of Syrians carrying the national flag rallied in Sweida, a city 70 miles south of Damascus.
The situation in Syria is at the top of the international agenda. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, said the latest civilian killings were alarming and called for Assad to carry out “far-reaching reforms, not repression and violence.”