MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN envoy Kofi Annan yesterday failed to announce any progress in talks on a new Security Council resolution on Syria, dimming Western hopes that Russia would approve a threat to impose sanctions.
Moscow, Syria’s main backer since the start of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 16 months ago, vehemently opposes any measure that smacks of foreign interference, and has vetoed two previous attempts to impose UN sanctions on his government.
Last month Russia and the other four veto-holding members of the Security Council agreed in Geneva that a transitional government should be set up in Syria. But while the United States, France and Britain took this to mean Assad must go, Russia and China did not.
Although the deal has not yielded any concerted action by the big powers, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the Annan-Putin talks: “I don’t see reasons for us not to come to an agreement on the same basis at the Security Council.”
Moscow says it is not supporting Assad, but that it will not agree to any deals that are conditional on his leaving power.
Damascus yesterday saw some of the fiercest fighting between state forces and rebels since the revolt began in March 2011.
The 15-strong Security Council is due to vote on a new Syria resolution today to prevent the mandate of a UN monitoring mission in Syria expiring.
On Monday Lavrov said Russia would block moves at the UN Security Council to extend the monitors’ mandate if Western powers did not stop resorting to “blackmail” by threatening sanctions against Damascus in their draft resolution.
A Western-backed proposal stipulates that sanctions could be imposed on Syria if it does not stop using heavy weapons and withdraw its troops from towns and cities within 10 days of the document’s adoption.
Russia has put forward its own draft, which would also prolong the UN mission in Syria for 90 days but makes no mention of sanctions.
“I would hope that we will continue these discussions (on a resolution in the UN Security Council) and hopefully find language that will pull everybody together for us to move forward on this critical issue,” Annan said after yesterday’s talks.