Lavrov: Russia opposes any approaches aiming to topple the Syrian state, will not pass any resolution on Syria involving Chapter VII
MOSCOW- Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday said that Russia will not permit the passing of any Security Council on Syria that involves Chapter VII, and that his country opposes any approaches that aim at toppling the Syrian state, adding that what is needed from Security Council is extending the UN observer mission in Syria as there is no reason to terminate its work.
In a press conference held in Moscow on Monday, Lavrov said that Russia's invitation for UN Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan to visit Moscow shows his country's dedication to the six-point plan, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be meeting Annan on Tuesday.
He called on all sides to halt violence in Syria and withdraw armed activities from cities and towns under UN supervision, noting that this was Russia's proposition in Geneva's meeting, but the western countries objected and said that government forces should withdraw force, and then armed groups would be asked to call a truce, adding that anyone with a reasonable mind can tell that this cannot work, as their should a synchronized ceasefire.
Lavrov stressed that the proposals made by Russia in Geneva are correct and should be included in the draft resolution which the Security Council is due to pass soon, pointing out that the proposed western draft resolution involves sanctions on Syria and the use of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, voicing Russia's regret that some western countries continue to attempt extortion to influence the Security Council resolution.
He said that the western countries are threatening to reject the extension of the observer mission if Russia doesn't approve the use of Chapter VII, stressing that Russia will insist on continuing the mission and that it's committed to seeking methods to achieve reconciliation among Syrians without resorting to extortion, ultimatums, deadlines and military intervention.
Lavrov affirmed that Russia isn't taking sides in the conflict; rather it objects to any approach that leads to toppling the Syrian state, noting that Putin's recent meeting with Russian ambassadors affirmed that Russia's foreign policies are firm and based on international laws and legitimacy, while some western countries attempt to distort these policies.
He underlined the need to support Annan's plan in every possible way, saying that the results of the Geneva meeting on Syria are clear and that they were the basis for the Security Council draft resolution submitted by Syria, adding that they don't involve Chapter VII but rather seek to expedite national dialogue in Syria, yet some of the participants in the Geneva meeting distorted and reinterpreted the results directly after it, which shows their lack of sincerity.
Lavrov said that western countries didn't uphold their parts of the agreements reached about the Syrian crisis, as they didn't use their influence on the armed group who are still fighting the Syrian government's forces and are refusing to carry out Security Council resolutions, stressing that all sides of the conflict need to be influenced, not just the Syrian government.
He also denounced some western statements that accuse Russia and China of being responsible for the continuation of the crisis in Syria, affirming that Russia is upholding its commitments while its western partners are only pressuring the Syrian leadership while they arm the opposition and pave the way for them to seize power.
Lavrov said that Russia will approve any decision made by the Syrian people regarding the leadership of their country, stressing that this doesn't constitute support to President Bashar al-Assad as some would like it to seem; rather it constitutes support for the agreements reached by all sides involved in the Syrian issue which focus on supporting Annan's plan, Security Council resolutions and the results of the Geneva meeting.
He went on to say that decisions must be made by the Syrians and should preserve Syria's territorial integrity, protect the rights of all Syrian sects and ethnicities, and prepare a schedule for a transitional stage through national dialogue between the government and the opposition.
Lavrov warned that any attempt to include any side in this conflict contradicts the agreements made and Geneva and elsewhere, calling for pushing all sides to initiate talks to shape the features of the political process.
He also voiced Russia's concern over the rising activity of what is being called a "third side" in Syria which consists of Al Qaeda and affiliated extremist groups, adding that this is an increasing tendency in the entire region which poses a threat to it, noting that the situation in Syria is assuming the qualities of a sectarian conflict.
Lavrov said that the results of resolving the Syrian crisis will determine the future of international relations, which was taken into consideration in the Security Council and Geneva meeting resolutions which adhere to the standards of international legitimacy.
He explained that Russia was unable to convince the opposition representatives who visited Moscow recently to give up their radical demands, and that they aren't taking the necessary steps to achieve appeasement, preserve lives and resolve the crisis, stressing the need to influence al armed groups – primarily the so called "fee army" – and the opposition to abandon radical positions.
He argued that if the situation in Syria is a popular uprising as the head of the Istanbul Council claims, than this would mean that the UN and international community should be uninvolved because such a claim entails admitting that the crisis is an internal affair and refraining from demanding intervention by the international community which isn't allowed to interfere in the course of an internal delegation.
Lavrov went on to criticize the west's behavior towards the Syrian crisis which hinders any progress towards a solution, saying that he has the impressions that any positive development, no matter how small, upsets the western partners.
He cited the western countries' behavior regarding the Syrian crisis, beginning with how they dealt with the Arab League observers when they terminated their mission after presenting an objective report, noting that the same thing is happening with Annan's plan as many began announcing its failure as soon as a ceasefire was announced and began to show positive signs.
Lavrov added that western countries also questioned the use of the observer mission since its deployment, and later they began to act negatively towards the Geneva meeting's statement by making demands for President al-Assad to abdicate and for the use of Chapter VII, which effectively abandons the Geneva statement.
He voiced Russia's concerns over the west's bargaining tactics, which involved making calls for the Geneva meeting's closing statement to include an article on imposing a full media and economic siege on Syria, despite their full awareness that Syrian government is confronting strong opposition by the armed group, which shows that those making these calls want a civil war in Syria.
Lavrov affirmed that violence should be condemned, but that condemnations aren't enough as pressure must also be employed, noting that in regards to the creation of a transitional establishment which was discussed in Geneva, President al-Assad appointed a negotiator on his behalf, while the opposition has yet to follow suit.
He pointed out that facts show that President al-Assad is supported by a large segment of the Syrian people, which is why he will not abdicate, saying that the statements that say that Moscow can solve the crisis by convincing President al-Assad to abdicate are unrealistic.
Lavrov noted that Russia's western partners took no steps to implement the outcome of the Geneva meeting, as they don't attempt to influence the Syrian opposition nor take constructive positions to pressure armed groups in Syria.
Regarding the outcome of Annan's deliberations in Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, Lavrov said that he has no right to discuss this issue and that Russia is waiting detailed information from Annan, adding that Russia is sure that any measures which are to be taken will be effective if they are implemented by both the Syrian government and the opposition.
Lavrov reiterated Russia's commitment to support Annan's plan through daily cooperation and communication with the Syrian government and regular communications with all Syrian opposition sides.
He said that in case the signs given by the international players are based on rules of the international legitimacy, the Geneva statement and the Security Council, then there are chances to move the situation forward and push the crisis towards the political path.
Lavrov added that if the signs given to the opposition by Russia's western partners have negative indications, then they contradict the Geneva statement which stressed the need for the international community to influence both sides of the conflict.
In response to a question, Lavrov said that there are different means to provoke defection in an army and that such things always happen and are not unusual, adding that there is no sign that the number of deserters or defectors will be influential on the progress of the situation in Syria.
He went on to say that foreign sides are encouraging the opposition to influence Russia to change its stance towards the crisis in Syria, and that such behavior is not constructive and will not yield the desired results, adding that these sides' attempts to encourage armed groups not to adhere to the ceasefire never stop, while at the same time they call upon the Syrian government to end violence.
Lavrov reiterated his country's rejection of passing a Security Council resolution that is not based on the tangible results reached at the Geneva meeting, stressing that what has been agreed upon during said meeting is a compromise.
He noted that some western partners are trying to amend the Russian draft resolution submitted to the Security Council to end the observer mission in Syria, saying that maybe there are some parties which do not want an objective UN monitoring of the situation in Syria and if this is not the case, then the western parties have to work to extend the mission of the observers.
Lavrov expressed Russia's readiness to agree on what is called technical extension of the mission away from evaluations and the demands frequently repeated in previous resolution.
Regarding al-Treimseh events, Lavrov said "We should not forget what happened in al-Treimseh a few days before convening the meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the new draft resolution," calling for continuing investigations to know the details of what took place there.
He added that contrary to the statements made by the opposition, its representatives admitted that a real battle happened in the village, indicating that members of the so-called " free army" attacked governmental a security outpost on July 12th and retreated to the village and after a while the governmental forces stormed the village, with the battle lasting for about two hours and resulting in the death of 40 members of the so-called "free army."
He hailed the efforts of the UN observers who visited the village and recorded the use of cannons and mortars as well as the presence of armed groups, noting that they did not present the final results since they need to visit the area again.
Lavrov added that investigating the reality of what is really taking place is not limited to the work of the observers, as media has role in this regard as well, saying that a Russian journalist who works under difficult circumstances presented a report today which can be recognized among other facts and evidence.
On the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)evaluation that Syria is experiencing a civil war, Lavrov said that the ICRC has the right to evaluate internal conflicts, and these evaluations which said that Syria is experiencing an armed internal conflict have repercussions and entail that the ICRC commit to its duties towards all sides of the conflict and individuals uninvolved in the conflict, which include preventing the killing, detaining and torture of individuals.
Lavrov said that the Security Council admitted that the opposition members have no respect for human rights in many areas which falls under the 2nd appendix of the Geneva Convention and is in line with ICRC statements.
He added that Moscow is pessimistic regarding the developments in Syria if the current situation continues and if the opposition groups choose "revolution," as it means that it does not want to stop, adding that he does not expect the government forces to agree to disarm or withdraw from cities and villages, indicating that the calls for such a thing aim at complicating the situation further.
Lavrov said that all players should influence the armed groups in one direction which is to cease fire and have the government and the opposition enter negotiations, noting that this was done by the Syrian government when it appointed a negotiator and now everyone is waiting for the opposition to appoint one to start negotiations, which will set up the transitional process paving the way the elections.
He stressed the importance of being careful while dealing with statistics on the number of victims and the need for relying on facts and the testimonies of those who work on the ground, adding that most journalists depend on mobile phone photos, using them to make political and military conclusions.
Regarding Russia's information about the Turkish warplane shot down by Syria's anti-air defenses, Lavrov said Russia as any other advanced military state has capabilities to get objective information using monitoring equipment and that it has conveyed the information to the Turkish partners.
On a question about the Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries, Lavrov said that Russia understands that the Syrian refugees have drawn great attention for political pretexts and that he knows that the UN Higher Commissioner for Refugee Affairs has the authority to provide all necessary aid, adding that they are doing their job and Russia is ready to participate if it is needed.
Lavrov said that there are indeed 35,000 refugees in Turkey and 30,000 in Lebanon and Jordan, yet Syria itself is hosting more than one million Iraqi refugees and more than 350,000 Palestinian refugees, affirming that when Russia sees the suffering of refugees in the neighboring countries, it helps them.
He pointed out that his country called for a new session for the international action group on Syria in Moscow and that it is ready to host the negotiations, stressing that the most important thing is the outcome of these negotiations rather than choosing the place.
Lavrov said that Russia wanted Saudi Arabia and Iran to participate in the Geneva meeting on Syria due to their influence, but the US objected to Iran's participation and Saudi Arabia was excluded as well.
He added that it would have been better if Iran and Saudi Arabia had attended the Geneva meeting and helped in making vital decisions, voicing hope that the preparatory meetings of the next workgroup meeting would put into consideration the necessity of the participation of all influential countries.
On the Russian comments about the events in Saudi Arabia, Lavrov clarified that Russia used its regular language in commenting about the situation in the country, pointing out that the difference in opinions between Russia and Saudi Arabia regarding Syria isn't an excuse for Russia to describe the situation in a manner differing from its usual policies.
Lavrov stressed his country's commitment to the international community's agreement that expressing concerns over human rights does not constitute interference in domestic affairs, clarifying that one cannot looked at the Syrian, Libyan or Yamani situations in an isolated manner since there are risks of destabilizing this geopolitically important region.
He added that the risks include the growing influence of Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups, which is something that should not be ignored, stressing that Al Qaeda is a mutual enemy.