Russia praises Syrian decision to admit Arab monitors


Russia on Monday praised Syria’s decision to let in Arab monitors, saying this could help stabilize the violence-stricken country, after Damascus made clear it agreed to the deal on the advice of its big power ally.

“We believe that the document signed in Cairo gives an opportunity to … provide safety for the Syrian people and stabilize the situation,” the Russian Foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Interfax news agency.

Syria agreed on Monday to let Arab League observers into the country to monitor implementation of a deal it agreed last month to pull troops from protest-hit towns, free political prisoners and start talking to dissidents.

Damascus signed the deal on the counseling of Moscow, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said.

An armed insurgency has emerged in the last two months in Syria, alongside a peaceful protest movement that began in March inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, including a pro-Assad militia, have reportedly suffered scores of casualties in the last few weeks, especially in the northwestern province of Idlib near Turkey and in the central region of Homs.

Russia has had strong ties with Damascus since the Soviet era. Syria has been a major client for Russian arms sales and hosts a Russian naval maintenance installation on its Mediterranean coast, a rare outpost abroad for Moscow’s military.

Iran backs Syria’s move

Iran on Monday said it backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s decision to start implementing an Arab League plan to quell the violence in his country by finally letting in observers.

But Tehran suggested it was not entirely happy with the pressure Arab states had brought to bear on Damascus, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying their action towards Syria was “like a joke.”

Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, Hossein Amir Abdolahian, told the state Arabic language television network Al-Alam that “Iran’s official stance regarding Syria and the Arab League plan is that whatever Bashar al-Assad deems as acceptable, we would approve of and accept.”

He added that the Arab League plan “contains many of the points Iran was also looking at,” even if not all concerns were addressed.

Ahmadinejad, though, criticised Arab nations for the way they had been treating Syria, Iran’s principal ally in the Middle East.

“Certain regional countries carry out acts which Iran considers to be more like a joke,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Reuters, AFP