Syria conflict: Is the West 'blackmailing' Russia to pass UN resolution?
The Russian foreign minister claims the West is threatening not to renew a UN observer mission in Syria if Russia doesn't vote for a resolution that could lead to military intervention.
The West is trying to blackmail Russia into agreeing to a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to remove Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad from power, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted today.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Reaching a critical juncture in Syria
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Mr. Lavrov's accusation came as UN envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin about how to save his faltering peace plan, which calls for a cease-fire, UN observers on the ground, and negotiations between rebels and regime for a mutually acceptable transitional government. Russia strongly backed that plan, but no part of it has worked and the mandate for the UN observer force is set to run out on July 20.
Lavrov claimed the West is threatening not to renew the observers' mandate unless Russia votes for a new Security Council resolution under Chapter Seven, which might open the door to military intervention.
"To our great regret, there are elements of blackmail," Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow today. "We are being told that if you do not agree to passing the resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, then we shall refuse to extend the mandate of the monitoring mission.... We consider it to be an absolutely counterproductive and dangerous approach, since it is unacceptable to use monitors as bargaining chips."
But the Russians appear to admit that they have no idea what can be done in Syria, and Lavrov acknowledged that despite months of tough opposition to Western anti-Assad initiatives, there is little or nothing Moscow can do to halt Syria's spiral into civil war.
"They tell us that we should persuade Assad to step down of his own free will. This is simply unrealistic," Lavrov said. "He will not leave, not because we are protecting him, but because he has the support of a very significant part of the country’s population.... We will accept any decision by the Syrian people on who will govern Syria, as long as it comes from the Syrians themselves."