Is Russia now the strongest backer of peace in Syria?
Russia has emerged as a strong backer of Kofi Annan's peace plan for Syria, and is now hammering Western nations for not doing enough to support it.
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It's a new role for Russia, which endured months of accusations that it was blocking a solution for strife-torn Syria after it vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions in the past several months calling for the removal of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
But last month, Moscow threw its weight behind Mr. Annan's plan to end the year-long uprising, which has killed more than 9,000 people by UN estimates. It called for a withdrawal of all government forces from Syrian towns and cities, followed by a shaky cease-fire that went into effect last Thursday and appears to be just barely holding despite multiple violations alleged on both sides.
Speaking in televised remarks today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov implied that the shoe is on the other foot now, with Moscow strongly backing the UN peace plan for Syria and willing to hold both Mr. Assad and his opponents to task but, he alleged, the effort is being undermined by unnamed Western and Arab countries.
"There are those who want Kofi Annan's plan to fail," Mr. Lavrov insisted. "Today, those who from the beginning foretold the failure of Annan's plan are doing a lot to see to it that this prophecy comes true… They are doing this by delivering arms to the Syrian opposition and stimulating the activity of rebels who continue to attack both government facilities and civilian facilities on a daily basis."
The cease-fire remains "quite fragile" because of the reluctance of those outside forces to fully back the Annan plan, Lavrov suggested, although he added that Assad bears a share of blame for the continuing uncertainty. "Of course, government forces are also taking measures to react to such provocations, and as a result it is not all going very smoothly yet," he said.