Two vetoes later, Russia says it will now back UN plan on Syria
Russia has steadfastly rejected pressure by the UN Security Council for Syrian President Assad to step aside. It says it will now support a UN resolution supporting a cease-fire, Red Cross access.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today scoffed at reports that Moscow had sent troops to strife-torn Syria to deter outside intervention and implied that the allegations were an attempt by pro-interventionists to disrupt an impending agreement on a path to peace based on a plan by United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Reaching a critical juncture in Syria
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Mr. Lavrov said Russia is willing to step up political pressure on President Bashar al-Assad and support a UN resolution that would call on all sides in Syria's conflict to reach accord on such issues as daily cease-fires and humanitarian corridors to allow the Red Cross access to civilians, and to urge progress on negotiations to end the hostilities.
"The Security Council should support [such a resolution] not as an ultimatum, but as a basis for the continuing efforts by Kofi Annan aimed at reaching accord between all the Syrians, the government, and all opposition groups on all key issues, such as humanitarian corridors, halting hostilities by all parties, the beginning of a political dialogue, and offering access to the media," Lavrov said after talks with his Lebanese counterpart in Moscow today.
Russian officials say the allegation that Russia may have sent some "special forces" to Syria as a means of dissuading the US or NATO from intervening – for fear of clashing with Russian forces – was completely made up. In fact, they say, there are not even any Russian warships currently visiting the naval station in the Syrian port of Tartous and, even if there were, the naval marines on board those ships would be strictly for self-defense.
Lavrov said there is only one Russian ship currently at Tartous, a naval tanker named "Iman," which is en route to the Red Sea to resupply Russian combat ships engaged in antipiracy operations together with other international forces. Lavrov said the vessel could be carrying a "security unit" for its own protection.
"All Russian ships going in that direction these days have some special troops aboard, and nobody ever denied this," says Alexander Sharavin, director of the independent Institute of Political and Military Analysis in Moscow. "I don't believe Russian leaders would ever put troops into Syria, but especially not now, when you see the way the situation is changing there. I believe an international compromise on Syria has already been reached."
Russia senses an endgame
Some Russian experts say they sense the endgame in Syria is near at hand. Forces loyal to Assad drove rebel forces from most of their redoubts during the past weeks, and Western leaders are sounding more cautious about the complexities of getting involved in what increasingly looks like a multisided civil war that could put the West on the same side as Al Qaeda and other extremist Islamist forces.