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Russia will not interfere in Syria: Lavrov

02 february 2012, 11:13
People hold a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a picket to support him outside the Syrian Embassy in Moscow, on February 1, 2012. ©AFP
People hold a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a picket to support him outside the Syrian Embassy in Moscow, on February 1, 2012. ©AFP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow will not tell Bashar al-Assad to stand down, as Western powers pushed at the UN Security Council for a resolution ordering the Syrian leader to go, AFP reports.

After 10 months of internal conflict in Syria that the United Nations says has killed more than 5,400 people, Russia is under growing pressure to take a firmer line on president Assad and his regime.

Under the resolution sponsored by Arab League member Morocco and backed by permanent Security Council members the United States, Britain and France, Assad would be ordered to halt violence immediately and hand power to his deputy.

But Russia, also one of the veto-wielding UN Security Council members, has exasperated the West by insisting it will not back such a resolution.

Lavrov, in Australia for meetings with his counterpart Kevin Rudd, stressed that while Assad was not an ally, it was not up to other nations to intervene.

"I don't think Russian policy is about asking people to step down. Regime change is not our profession. Some other countries...," he said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation late Tuesday.

"It is up to the Syrians themselves to decide how to run the country, how to introduce the reforms, what kind of reforms, without any outside interference."

His comments came as fighting escalated between Syrian government forces and rebels and a senior American official predicted that Assad would be toppled sooner or later.

Syria, though, remains defiant with the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari saying his country "will stand firm in confronting its enemies".

Despite being a major arms supplier to Syria, Russia was not a friend of Assad, Lavrov insisted.

"We're not a friend, we're not an ally of president Assad. We never said that president Assad remaining in power is the solution to the crisis," he said, denying that Russian arms were being used against protestors.

"We are implementing our commercial contractual obligations. The arms we are selling to Syria, they are not used against demonstrators. Those are arms to protect Syria and to ensure Syrian defence."

Lavrov added that he was concerned about what was going on more broadly in the region, particularly when people "take in the context of isolating Iran".

"And if this happens, I mean if this logic prevails, then unfortunately, we will be witnessing a much bigger drama," he said.

"What is going on is an attempt to change the balance in the Muslim world. And the rift between Sunni and Shia is absolutely evident.

"And it is of direct relevance to what is going on in Syria, to what is going on around Iran, to what is going on in Iraq."

Without naming nations, he said the people "obsessed with removing regimes" needed to start considering the "broader picture".

"And I'm afraid that if this vigour to change regimes persists, we are going to witness a very bad situation much, much, much broader than just Syria, Libya, Egypt or any other single country," he said.

"We're going to prevent this type of development.

"And I hope that knowledgeable people, reasonable people understand what it is about and would opt in favour of dialogue and engagement of everyone, not in favour of isolating somebody. Isolation doesn't work."

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