Russia Prepared to Back Annan's Syria Plan

United Nations special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan (3rd Left) meets with Ahmad Badr Al Din Hassoun, Syria's Grand Muft (2nd Right), in Damascus, Syria, March 11, 201
United Nations special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan (3rd Left) meets with Ahmad Badr Al Din Hassoun, Syria's Grand Muft (2nd Right), in Damascus, Syria, March 11, 201
James BrookeMichael Lipin

Russia has offered conditional support for Western efforts to persuade the U.N. Security Council to approve a Syria peace plan drafted by international envoy Kofi Annan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday Moscow believes the Security Council should support Annan's continuing efforts to achieve agreement between all Syrians engaged in the country's year-long unrest.

But Lavrov said any Council statement or resolution on the crisis must not impose an ultimatum on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime Russian ally. He also said the details of Annan's peace plan for Syria must be released and debated.

Annan sent a five-member team of international experts to Syria on Sunday to try to secure a cease-fire between government and rebel forces leading an uprising against Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule. Annan discussed his peace plan with Mr. Assad in Damascus earlier this month, but has said little about it since.

U.N. diplomats were meeting Tuesday in New York to debate a French-drafted Security Council statement that backs Annan's peace efforts but also warns of possible "further measures" if the Syrian government rejects them.

Russia and China have twice vetoed earlier Security Council proposals on Syria, saying the Western and Arab-backed draft resolutions amounted to interference in the country's internal affairs.

Russia Increasing Pressure

Vadim Saltikovsky, a professor of international relations at Moscow State University, told VOA that Russia now is increasing pressure on President Assad to negotiate because it fears Syria is on the brink of a full-fledged civil war.

Note: VOA has revised its figures based on information complied by UNOSAT via death toll figures from and the Violations Documenting Center. This change reflects a shift in the numbers. Because of the difficulty of monitoring and reporti
Note: VOA has revised its figures based on information complied by UNOSAT via death toll figures from and the Violations Documenting Center. This change reflects a shift in the numbers. Because of the difficulty of monitoring and reporti
Syrian activists say government troops shelled several opposition hubs across the country on Tuesday, killing at least 30 people, most in the central region of Homs. They say one soldier also was killed in southern Syria. Syrian state news agency SANA said seven other security personnel were buried Tuesday, after being killed in fighting with rebels.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the situation in Syria as "unacceptable" and "intolerable." Mr. Ban made the comments in Bogor, Indonesia, in response to a VOA Indonesian service reporter's question at a joint news conference with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He said the international community has "no time to waste" in trying to end Syria's violence, warning that "one minute, one hour [of] delay will mean the death of more and more people."

The United Nations says at least 8,000 people have been killed in the Assad government's violent crackdown on the revolt, which began with peaceful protests and became increasingly militarized as army defectors attacked pro-Assad troops who assaulted civilians.

Watch related video of U.N. Security Council

Opposition Faces Criticism

Syria's armed opposition faced its first significant criticism from a major rights organization on Tuesday, with New York-based group Human Rights Watch accusing some rebels of committing serious abuses, including kidnappings, torture and executions.

HRW made the accusation in an open letter to Syria's main exiled opposition group, the Syrian National Council. It said the Syrian government's "brutal tactics cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups" against Syrian security forces and Assad supporters. The rights group said Syrian opposition leaders should urge the rebels to stop such abuses.

The Russian Navy

In other developments Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov rejected reports that Russian warships have been visiting a Russian naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, calling them "fairy tales."

Lavrov told reporters that a ship docked at the port is a Russian Navy oil tanker on a mission to supply Russian anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden. He said Russian security forces were on board to protect the tanker from pirates. It is unclear why the ship is docked 8,000 kilometers from the piracy area, off the coast of Somalia.

As violence has increased in Syria, Russia has rotated its Navy ships through Tartous, reportedly in case they are needed for emergency evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria.

With Western concern growing about possible Russian military intervention in Syria, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov also told reporters, "There is no special task force; there are no troops in Syria."

Since December, Reuters reports, four Russian cargo ships have unloaded arms and munitions at Tartus. On Monday, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that Russia has supplied 78 percent of Syria’s arms imports since 2007.

Saltikovsky of Moscow State University says that Russian military deliveries are simply fulfilling existing contracts.

Wire services contributed to this report. Brooke reported from Moscow and Lipin from Washington.

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Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin
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Comment Sorting
by: mervin
March 21, 2012 12:35 AM
Assad does not take orders from the west no wonder they need him out of power,its all a game.Saudi Arabia,USA still maintenaing some regimes in Yemen and Bahrain dispite year long protest there while some media are silent on .Russia,China and Iran maintenaing Assad in power.

by: NVO
March 20, 2012 7:55 PM
It’s far from clear yet what path Putin will take to meet his lavish campaign promises. But this curious – and largely overlooked — New York Times article suggests the incoming Czar of Russia now has a specific and acute economic motive to foment turmoil in the Middle East. It’s a troubling development, to say the least, and one worth keeping a close eye on!

by: mr. yilmaz
March 20, 2012 1:45 PM
it is a fragile long-rage process for syrian and other mediator countries. As we know, Russia has supported syrian dictatorship for a long time so it had sold weapons and ammunitions to Syrian government so far. But lately the world of people are witnessing a massacre in the syrian cities due to uprising and clashing. In my opinion most of mass destruction weapons have been delivered to the syrian army by Russian and other developed countries.

by: Hassan
March 20, 2012 9:06 AM
Russia now realizes that no matter how many weapons it gives to the Assad dictatorship, it is impossible to support the collapsing Syrian economy forever. Like the situation in Vietnam, you can win militarily on the battlefield, but if you fail to win the heart and minds of the population, that authority is doomed to collapse. Assad is viewed as a failed dictator by most Syrians who are now waiting for Assad’s departure. Russia will now negotiate with the opposition about their naval base.

by: Observer
March 20, 2012 8:59 AM
When bullets kill their fathers , mother, Brothers and sisters they feel pains and anger when their houses destroyed they are suffered .The Syrian peoples are suffer enough they want the killing to be stopped now , talking time is dragging for to long UN need action .As we can't see any common ground between Syrian opposition and Assad's government it is impossible to see the Revolt will negotiate with Assad even UN security forces come in Syria the killing will continue until Assad gone.

by: Realist
March 20, 2012 8:51 AM
People's lives are the most precious and to prevaricate from the right course of action is to endanger their lives, resulting in further tragedy, with no peace and security for the future. Examples in Africa are clear lessons where loss of life is not to be repeated and should be heeded by Mr Annan.

by: Carlos
March 20, 2012 8:13 AM
The photo of the dictator whose family has ruled for forty years says it all .. Kofi Annan seems to be dealing with "realities" like he did when he was in charge in Rwanda .. The Rwandan Genocide took place in 1994 while Annan directed UN Peacekeeping Operations. In his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (2003), General Dallaire asserted that Annan held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict. 800,000 Rwandans dead.

by: NVO
March 20, 2012 8:07 AM
Of course they are prepared. And the king of the North (Russia) is also preparing to attack Israel during the tribulation. But their ragtag army will be pushed back.I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land, with its front columns going into the eastern sea and those in the rear into the western sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise." Surely he has done monstrous things=Joel 2:20

by: Cape
March 20, 2012 7:30 AM
We need to be careful to distinguish international strategic aims, from their playing out at regional and national levels

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