United Nations, NY- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, addressed the UN Security Council Monday with clashing views on how to tackle a year-old uprising.
While the U.S. administration has said Assad must go, Russia has vetoed two draft resolutions in the past five months seeking to hold President Bashar al-Assad accountable and support a political transition.
“The alternative to our unity on these points will be bloody internal conflict with dangerous consequences for the whole region,” Clinton told reporters in New York. Lavrov “will take what he heard here back to Moscow, and we are all waiting to hear from Annan as to his advice about the best way forward.”
Lavrov countered that “ultimatums would not work.”
“It is not honest when people say everything depends on Russia,” he told reporters. “I would also like to hope that the U.S can resolve the Middle East crisis. Today’s problems of the world cannot be resolved by the desire or efforts by one country alone.”
Addressing the Security Council earlier, Lavrov criticized what Russia sees as “risky recipes of geopolitical engineering” put forward at the UN. He was critical of “making hasty demands for regime change, imposing unilateral sanctions designed to trigger economic difficulties and social tensions in the country.”
In a signal that Russia’s allegiance to President Bashar al-Assad may not be unconditional, Lavrov said there “is no doubt whatsoever that the Syria authorities bear a huge share of responsibility for the current situation.” He also said the international community cannot “ignore” that for a “long time now” President al-Assad has been fighting “combat units,” not unarmed men.
Lavrov also accused that NATO had “grossly violated” its U.N. mandate to protect civilians in Libya last year after rebels rose up to overthrow and kill Muammar Gaddafi.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that the Syrian authorities bear a huge responsibility for the current situation,” he said.
But, Lavrov added, there was no point in talking about that started the violence. He said the Security Council should press for an “immediate end of violence” by all sides.
Russia, which sells weapons to Syria, is facing growing international pressure to sever ties with a Soviet-era ally. Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union is a naval maintenance and supply center in the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea.
For her part, “How cynical that, even as Assad was receiving former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Syrian Army was conducting a fresh assault on Idlib and continuing its aggression in Hama, Homs, and Rastan,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Security Council in the presence of Lavrov and European foreign ministers.
Clinton told reporters after meeting privately with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov it was time for Moscow and Beijing to join calls for an end to the Syrian government’s repression of unrest.
Clinton said it was up to Assad, whose army has led a year-long crackdown which the United Nations says has killed well over 7,500 civilians, to take the initial step. “First and foremost the Assad government has to end the violence,” she said.
Clinton’s meeting with Lavrov on Monday was their first since Feb. 3, when Clinton failed to convince Russia not to veto a second draft resolution condemning Presidnet Bashar al-Assad.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he “listened very attentively” to Lavrov and found him ‘ambiguous’’ in giving support for Annan’s mission. What is still needed is a “clear reference” to the Arab League plan that envisages Assad handing power to a deputy to pave the way for free elections, Juppe said.
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