MOSCOW — Russia will stonewall any U.N. sanctions on Syria and will push for a quick start of talks between the Syrian government and the country’s opposition, the Russian foreign minister said Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would block any attempts to get the U.N. approval for sanctions against Syria that have been imposed by other nations, saying that such a move would be “unfair and counterproductive.”
The U.S., the European Union, the Arab League and Turkey all have introduced sanctions against Damascus in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s violent crackdown on opponents. The uprising has left more than 5,400 people dead, according to the U.N. estimates.
The U.N. Security Council has been unable to agree on a resolution since the violence began in March because of a strong opposition from Russia and China.
Lavrov said Russia’s own draft of a U.N. Security Council resolution on the violence in Syria, which circulated earlier this month, remains on the table, and that Moscow was open for any “constructive proposals.” Western diplomats said the Russian proposal fell short of their demand for a strong condemnation of the Syrian regime’s crackdown on civilians.
But Lavrov reaffirmed that any U.N. resolution must say clearly it “couldn’t be interpreted to justify any foreign military interference in the Syrian crisis.”
“We believe that our approach is fair and well-balanced, unlike the attempts to pass one-sided resolutions that would condemn only one party and, by doing so, encourage another one to build up confrontation and take an uncompromising stance,” Lavrov said. “We have seen that in Libya, and we will not allow the repetition of the Libyan scenario.”
Russia abstained in the U.N. vote authorizing military intervention in Libya, but harshly criticized NATO for what it saw as an excessive use of force and civilian casualties during the NATO bombing campaign against strongman Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. The NATO-backed rebels in Libya eventually succeeded in overthrowing Gadhafi.
Russian officials have strongly warned the West against emulating the Libyan experience in Syria.
Lavrov called for a quick start of talks between the Syrian government and the opposition, suggesting they could be hosted by Egypt, the Arab League, Turkey or Russia.