Russia seeks to slow UN pace on Syria action
Moscow, January 30, 2012
Russia on Monday sought to avert a swift UN Security Council vote on a Western-Arab resolution on Syria and said it wanted to study recommendations from Arab observers before discussing a plan that calls for President Bashar al-Assad to cede power.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov spoke a day before Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby was to brief Security Council members to seek support for the Arab League plan to end 10 months of bloodshed in which more than 5,000 people have been killed.
Western powers Britain and France want the Security Council to vote next week on a draft resolution supporting the Arab League plan's call for Assad to step down. Elaraby has said he hopes to overcome resistance from Beijing and Moscow.
But Gatilov said recommendations from Arab monitors in Syria, led by Sudanese General Mohammed al-Dabi, should be presented to council members including Russia, which he said had not been informed of the mission's findings.
"It would be logical, considering the complexity of this issue, for Security Council members to be able to study the recommendations and conclusions of the observer mission in detail," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
"Only after that would it be possible to count on a substantive discussion of this issue in the Security Council."
A permanent Security Council member with veto power, Russia has been increasingly isolated in support for Assad as the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters goes on.
Gatilov said on Friday the Western-Arab draft resolution was unacceptable in its current form and that an attempt to rush it to a vote would fail, signalling it could use its veto to block the proposal if it remains unchanged.
Assad's resignation must not be a precondition of a peace process in Syria, he said.
In October, Russia and China blocked a Western-backed draft resolution condemning Assad's government for its crackdown.
Moscow said that his opponents must share blame for the bloodshed and that the resolution could have led to Libya-style military intervention, which Russia says it will not allow.
Syria has been Russia's strongest footholds in the Middle East. It is a major client for Russian arms sales and hosts a naval maintenance facility on its Mediterranean coast that is the Russia's only military base abroad. – Reuters