Russian opposition to intervention in Syria shows no sign of abating
Russian opposition is not just about its interests in Syria – increasingly it is based on skepticism about Western democracy promotion in the Middle East.
Russian officials pledged Monday to "study" a new proposal by the Arab League that would create a joint UN peacekeeping force for strife-torn Syria, but Moscow appears to be hardening its position against any outside interference in Syria's increasingly civil-warlike turmoil.Skip to next paragraph
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Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said some basic questions would have to be answered before Moscow could support the proposal. The Kremlin suspects that the Arab League and the West are planning to back a war for regime change in Syria regardless of anything the UN Security Council decides, Russian experts say.
Mr. Lavrov, who claims to have convinced Syrian President Bashar al Assad to support dialogue and deep constitutional reforms during a visit to Damascus last week, said there would need to be a semblance of peace – based on some level of negotiated accord between the conflicting sides – before peacekeeping forces could be sent in.
"In order to deploy a peacekeeping mission, you need the agreement of the receiving side," Lavrov told a press conference in Moscow today. "In other words, you need to agree something resembling a ceasefire. But the problem is that the armed groups that are fighting the Syrian regime do not answer to anyone and are not controlled by anyone."
Moscow has been badly stung by a torrent of criticism following its veto earlier this month of a UN Security Council resolution called for Mr. Assad to step aside. Hence, Lavrov's emphasis Monday on the need to promote dialogue and reconciliation in Syria may be just a velvet-gloved way of repeating Russia's refusal to countenance any outside interference in Syria, experts suggest.
"Can you imagine peacekeeping forces without the agreement of one of the sides? It means military invasion," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow-based foreign policy journal.
Syria dismisses league proposal
The Syrian government today dismissed the Arab League proposal in a statement quoted by the official SANA news agency. "Syria rejects decisions that are a flagrant interference in the country's internal affairs and a violation of its national sovereignty," it said.