News / Middle East

Russia Favors Syrian Solution to Political Crisis

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, answers questions during Moscow news conference, June 28, 2012.Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, answers questions during Moscow news conference, June 28, 2012.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, answers questions during Moscow news conference, June 28, 2012.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, answers questions during Moscow news conference, June 28, 2012.
VOA News
Russia says Syria needs a period of political transition but has rejected calls for President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power in a possible unity government.  Meanwhile, there has been a powerful explosion near the country's main court in Damascus.

Thursday's developments came as neighboring Turkey deployed troops and anti-aircraft batteries to the Syrian border following the downing of one of its military jets by Syrian forces last week.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said any solution to the crisis in Syria must be decided by Syrians themselves and that Russia would not support external "meddling."

Syrian opposition groups said Thursday they would not accept any proposed political transition plan that does not explicitly require Assad to step down.

The diplomatic wrangling emerged ahead of Saturday's planned "action group" meeting in Geneva where international envoy Kofi Annan could propose a national unity cabinet that includes opposition figures. Diplomatic sources at the United Nations said the plan does not demand Assad's resignation but excludes those whose participation could undermine stability. Details were vague.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Latvia that Annan's plan calls for "a Syrian-led transition." She said Washington believes any solution must comply "with international standards on human rights, accountable governance, the rule of law and equal opportunity for all people of Syria. Clinton said the Annan framework "lays out how to arrive at that."

Lavrov and Clinton are due to meet Friday in St. Petersburg.
Deaths Across Syria, map dated June 9, 2012Deaths Across Syria, map dated June 9, 2012
Deaths Across Syria, map dated June 9, 2012
Deaths Across Syria, map dated June 9, 2012

Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma, told VOA the Obama administration has steadily gained confidence that its policy of regime change "is the correct one and is going to happen sooner or later." He said Russia still appears convinced it can find a way to keep Assad loyalists in power even without the Assad family itself.

But Landis said the balance of power in Syria is changing. "The Arab majority, the Sunni Arab majority, is going to win this in the long run. That's what's been happening throughout the Middle East in the last several decades," he said.

Landis predicted the transition from minority Alawite domination to Sunni Muslim rule in Syria would be protracted and messy. But he noted that Western and Arab sanctions on the Syrian government and assistance to the rebels are already bearing fruit.

  • A damaged building of al-Ikbariya TV is seen after it was attacked by gunmen, in the town of Drousha, about 20 kilometers (14 miles) south of Damascus, June 27, 2012. (photo released by the Syrian official news agency, SANA)
  • Damaged equipment at the site of an attack on the pro-government al-Ikbariya satellite television channel's offices outside Damascus
  • A Syrian man stands inside a burnt room of al-Ikbariya TV station in Drousha (photo released by the Syrian official news agency, SANA)
  • Damaged control room of al-Ikbariya TV station (photo released by the Syrian official news agency, SANA)
  • A damaged equipment storage room of the Ikhbariya TV station after it was attacked by gunmen in Drousha (photo released by the Syrian official news agency, SANA)
  • Damaged buildings after gunmen stormed the headquarters of al-Ikbariya

"Western Europe, the Gulf countries, America are starving the Syrian government with very strict sanctions. And they are feeding the opposition, pumping in money, arms [and] intelligence. This is rapidly changing the balance of power," Landis said.

Although Assad's government still has many assets, Landis said, the rebel Free Syrian Army "is becoming much more lethal, getting much better at terrorist-type attacks and is taking the fight to the regime."

Syrian state television called Thursday's explosion near the Palace of Justice in central Damascus a "terrorist" attack.  Dozens of burned out cars were strewn around a car park used by lawyers and judges.  Three people were reportedly wounded.

The FSA has stepped up pressure on the capital in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Turkish military convoys moved toward the Syrian frontier, reacting to Syria's downing of a Turkish warplane on Friday. The deployment came two days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered his troops to treat any Syrian military element approaching the border as a target.

Turkey hosts over 33,000 Syrian refugees on its southeastern border as well as FSA units fighting to overthrow Assad.

Annan's transition proposal is one of the main topics that five permanent U.N. Security Council members and some key players in the Middle East will discuss on Saturday.

Lavrov said Moscow has not agreed to any new version of Annan's crumbling cease-fire proposal and reiterated his government's strong opposition to any outside efforts that would force regime change in Syria.

"The meeting in Geneva was intended to support Kofi Annan's plan and it must set the conditions for the end of violence and the start of an all-Syrian national dialogue, and not pre-determine the contents of this dialogue," Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister said it was a "mistake" not to invite Syrian ally Iran to the Geneva meeting, calling the country an "influential player" in the situation. Saudi Arabia, a prominent supporter of those opposed to Assad, was also left off the list.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
by: Michael from: USA
June 29, 2012 9:51 AM
To say "how" a Shii leader should step down would lead to wild and unpredictable gyrations, it is as if a breach against a duty to God Almighty would occur

by: kanaikaal irumporai from: Norway
June 29, 2012 6:01 AM
What the Russians and the Syrian president are saying is correct(any solution should be home-grown and takes time), it's been adopted by the western powers in other cases, where even the UN compiled reports of crimes and possible possible solution based upon further investigations have been ignored in favour of bogus reports that cleans the perpetrators hands for blood. If they can be invited to the Whitehouse and Buckingham palace to be with other dignitaries in times of celebrations, then why can the chance be given to Assad and his regime.

by: e Andrews from: ireland
June 28, 2012 6:02 PM
Easing Assad may be the best option all round, if the world powers try to force him he may decide to use chemical or biological weapons, or those weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist. If he's replaced peacefully the UN would have a better chance to secure them

by: Anonymous
June 28, 2012 3:19 PM
Russia you have already did enough damage as it is, to the Syrian people, by providing weapons/helicopters etc to kill innocent men, women and children. Promoting a leader that inflicts torture and genocide will only get your hand slapped. Just remember one thing Mother Russia, that the people of Syria will prevail, and when the time comes, your forces will not be welcomed in Syria again. You totally deserve this and should of known better. I imagine even turning a page and helping the actual "People of Syria" now is maybe even too late. Putin makes some very dumb decisions and this one he will wear permanently.
In Response

by: Plain Mirror from: Plain planet
June 29, 2012 6:33 AM
Before you comment anything aginst Russia, be more informed on the game on ground. Do not comment vaguely. Force was used to remove Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory coast in power over disputted election, now the current regime is in big mess as both the economic and reconciliation processes are like white elephant projects. Khaddafi was forcefully removed, today factions in Libya are fighting and killing each other. Russia only sees the future lingering haterade and division in the minds of the people if external aggressive forces are implimented which obviously worsens the whole thing. Rebels drop guns and embrace dialog or keep fighting and face decades of crumbling nation building and reconciliation. Blame the rebels first, then blame Obama and Nicholars Sarkozy for unduely backing rebels. If rebels have no backing, they would have embraced dialoge, since the reverse is the case, let them fight it out. Democracy is a game, not the solution to leadership problem of mankind.

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