Russia accuses Syrian rebels of using terror tactics


Russia accused Syrian rebels on Thursday of using terror tactics and suggested they were more to blame for ceasefire violations than President Bashar al-Assad’s troops, as a top rebel military leader said the U.N. monitoring mission to Syria is doomed to fail.

The remarks by the foreign ministry differed from assessments by Western states which have been calling on government forces to end attacks and withdraw from cities and towns under a U.N.-backed truce.

“We call upon the Syrian side to carry out in full its obligations…” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a weekly briefing, according to Reuters. “Nonetheless … there is another side in Syria, opposition groups, which have in essence shifted to tactics of terror on a regional scale.”

Lukashevich listed several rebel attacks and accused foreign states of arming the rebels.

“Many Western governments, and not just Western … are helping the Syrian opposition with weapons and financing, and this makes a political resolution of the situation significantly more difficult,” Lukashevich said.

Lukashevich said the truce was “very, very fragile” but his tone contrasted with the urgency conveyed by Western nations and by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who called the situation “unacceptable” on Tuesday.

France, leading Western calls for tougher action against Assad, says it planned to push next month for a “Chapter 7” U.N. Security Council resolution if his forces did not pull back.

Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter allows the Council to authorize actions that can include the use of military force — something Russia opposes.

Moscow says NATO misused a U.N. resolution authorizeing military intervention to protect civilians in Libya to help rebels overthrow Muammar Qaddafi last year and has vowed not to let it happen in Syria.

Lukashevich did not discuss the possibility of a new U.N. resolution but said sanctions adopted by the European Union on Monday were counterproductive and that global powers should focus on implementing a peace plan.

Russia has blocked two U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Assad’s government for a crackdown in which the United Nations says his forces have killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011.

Syria has given post-Soviet Russia its firmest foothold in the Middle East, buying billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and hosting a maintenance and supply facility that is Russia’s only warm-water naval port outside the former Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, the top rebel military leader was quoted on Thursday as saying that the U.N. monitoring mission to Syria is doomed to fail because President Assad will never comply with a ceasefire, according to AFP.

General Mustafa al-Sheikh told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat there are only two possible solutions to ongoing violence.

One would be for the U.N. Security Council to put in place “mechanisms to make the regime fall” and the other would be military intervention.

As for a political solution, Sheikh said he believes Assad would not comply with Annan’s plan for Syria because “a ceasefire would imply the fall of the regime.”

Were regime forces to comply with the ceasefire and allow peaceful protest, Sheikh said, “millions of Syrians would take to the streets.”

“The regime’s nature is based on its security mentality” and “is built on oppression,” the army defector and head of the Free Syrian Army’s military council told the London-based newspaper.

He called for more international action, but said the Security Council will fail to act “so long as the Russian veto remains.”

As an alternative to U.N.-backed military action, Sheikh added that he had proposed “an air strike by the Friends of Syria group” during their last meeting in early April.

In spite of his skepticism of the U.N. monitoring team’s effectiveness, Sheikh said “we want Annan’s plan to succeed,” adding that he had instructed rebel fighters to “exercise restraint.”

But the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said regime forces have continued to kill scores in multiple locations, including Hama, central Syria, and Duma, in the Damascus region.

The Syrian authorities frequently blame “armed terrorist groups” for violence.

On Tuesday, former U.N. chief Annan told Security Council that he was “concerned” about violence surging after members of the advance team visit individual cities.

Al Arabiya

Photo: Anti Russian protest in Syria. The Russians have been accused of siding with the regime in its crackdown against the pro-democracy protests in Syria