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We cannot remain ignorant and biased about Syria

by Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation

July 19, 2012 (TSR) - I don’t want to pretend to be original, and I state that Syrian events are terrible. People are dying. We have already heard millions of speeches on who to blame and what to do, declarations about sanctions, necessity to change the regime and solidarise with the “people’s revolution” — that’s how the activities of militant opposition are now being called. We can also hear the accusations in crimes against humanity, the demands to bring the guilty to trial in Hague. But behind all these words we can feel the lack of willingness to immediately bring violence to an end, to stop the bloodshed just because all other matters can wait. The principal task is to stop the killings.

It is obvious for us that in order to cease violence it is necessary to force all hostile parties to stop combat activities at the same time, synchronize the disengagement of all armor and troops under the control of the UN Mission in Syria. By the way, it was this plan that we suggested to include into the communiqué of the ministerial meeting that took place on 30th June this year in Geneva, but our Western partners and a number of other partners voted against this. Their logic suggests that in the beginning the governmental forces should unilaterally leave the cities, and only then it will be possible to ask the combat units of the opposition (and, as you know, they are pretty well armed) to declare truce. I think that anyone who is governed by common sense understands that this scheme is unrealistic and just won’t work.

Only synchronized ceasefire is possible, which should be followed by simultaneous withdrawal of both governmental forces and combat units of the opposition from all settlements. We consider that in order to achieve this it is necessary to put the UN observers in charge of coordinating with all parties the particular plan for each city and settlement, where the armed confrontation takes place. The Russian party enunciated the corresponding statement. In spite of the fact that our partners in Geneva did not support it, we are convinced that it is reasonable and rational, and also have included this statement into the draft of the resolution of the UN Security Council which Russia issued recently in New York. Our project is aimed to accomplish the Geneva agreements in full scale and provides, in particular, the extension of the operation of the Mission of UN observers in Syria for the next three months.

Our western colleagues have brought in the alternative project in which the Geneva agreements are not reflected to the full extent. It contains the requirement of applying sanctions against the Syrian regime under the Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, but no consent considering it was achieved in Geneva, and the participants did not commit themselves to such decision.

We are greatly disappointed to notice that these developments are followed even by blackmailing schemes. They tell us that if we don’t approve the Resolution on Chapter VII of the UN Charter, they will refuse to prolong the mandate of the observers mission. I consider that this approach is absolutely counterproductive and dangerous since is inadmissible to use observers as ” bargaining chip “. Observers are meant to give objective assessments to the development of events and must investigate the incidents similar to the event in Tremsa.

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We are greatly disappointed to notice that these developments are followed even by blackmailing schemes. They tell us that if we don’t approve the Resolution on Chapter VII of the UN Charter, they will refuse to prolong the mandate of the observers mission.

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We will persistently strive to prolong the mandate of the United Nations mission, including its possible modification with more emphasis on the political component, as it was offered by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon in his last report dedicated to Syria. Our position is well-known, and is based on the necessity to create conditions for the search of consensus by Syrians themselves. It rejects the methods of dictatorship, ultimatums, threats and any other steps which, according to our convictions, prepare basis for external intervention rendering assistance to the armed opposition. We are neutral in the Syrian conflict. Our sole interest is to prevent the destabilization of the Syrian state, its demise and the further degradation of the entire region.

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Our position is well-known, and is based on the necessity to create conditions for the search of consensus by Syrians themselves. It rejects the methods of dictatorship, ultimatums, threats and any other steps which, according to our convictions, prepare basis for external intervention rendering assistance to the armed opposition. We are neutral in the Syrian conflict. Our sole interest is to prevent the destabilization of the Syrian state, its demise and the further degradation of the entire region.

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During his speech at the meeting of ambassadors and permanent representatives of the Russian Federation on July, 9th in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the President of Russia Vladimir V. Putin emphasized that our policy is sovereign and independent and will be implemented on the basis of international law and necessity of elaboration of collective measures. By the way, the curriculum vitae (resume) of those who actively tries to throw us off from this principal position, abounds with rude violations of international law and sad examples of settlement of various conflict situations by performing unilateral acts of violence. Results of such actions are notorious and they hardly grant their authors the right to advance claims concerning the position of Russia in those or other crisis situations.

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By the way, the curriculum vitae (resume) of those who actively tries to throw us off from this principal position, abounds with rude violations of international law and sad examples of settlement of various conflict situations by performing unilateral acts of violence. Results of such actions are notorious and they hardly grant their authors the right to advance claims concerning the position of Russia in those or other crisis situations.

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From the very beginning we without any doubts supported Kofi Annan’s plan, deployment of Mission of UN observers in Syria and put a lot of efforts in order to receive consent from Damascus. Russia also initiated the meeting of the main external actors on June, 30th in Geneva, in the course of which the communiqué detailing the steps on the implementation of the plan of Kofi Annan was approved. The Russian draft of the Resolution distributed in the UN Security Council is based on the actual results of Geneva meeting  and not on speculations. It contains no references to the Chapter VII of the Charter dedicated to the use of force and to the preliminary conditions to begin the political dialogue. It completely corresponds to the agreements of the Geneva meeting, in which there are no mentions of Chapter VII and unilateral preliminary requirements. Unfortunately, some other participants of the meeting  began to distort the nature of achieved agreements right after its end, and to claim that they stipulate the retirement of Bashar al-Assad and his associates (and nobody can explain us how is it possible to implement this retirement) and falsifying the Syrian situation so that it could meet the Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.

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Unfortunately, some other participants of the meeting began to distort the nature of achieved agreements right after its end, and to claim that they stipulate the retirement of B. Assad and his associates (and nobody can explain us how is it possible to implement this retirement) and falsifying the Syrian situation so that it could meet the Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.

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I can make only one conclusion from all this — either our colleagues in Geneva were insincere, or they are incapable to adhere to a treaty. In fact, I would like to raise a question: how can we speak about the Chapter VII when those who suggest referring to it refuse to implement what the requirements of already adopted resolutions of UN Security Council demand and what all of us pledged to do when we were in Geneva, namely – to influence all Syrian parties, including the armed opposition, not in inciting, but in constructive spirit? Those who did not even try to use their influence and authority in relation to well-armed combat groups which are fighting against the governmental forces, are bound to be responsible for the fact that Resolutions No. 2042 and No. 2043 of UN Security Council are not implemented.

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I can make only one conclusion from all this — either our colleagues in Geneva were insincere, or they are incapable to adhere to a treaty. In fact, I would like to raise a question: how can we speak about the Chapter VII when those who suggest referring to it refuse to implement what the requirements of already adopted resolutions of UN Security Council demand and what all of us pledged to do when we were in Geneva, namely – to influence all Syrian parties, including the armed opposition, not in inciting, but in constructive spirit?

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Before calling for the use of force methods, it is necessary to implement the agreements not related to of Chapter VII which are stipulated in Resolutions No. 2042 and No. 2043 of UN Security Council – it is necessary to influence all parties, instead of putting unilateral demands only to the government. Demands to the authorities are necessary, and we are advancing them. But it is incorrect to pretend that the party of opposition does not need the same influence. And it is even more unfair to put all blame on Russia and China, not to mention threatening that “they will pay for it”, which are beyond not only diplomacy, but even simple good manners.

At the present moment, the Syrian people feel the recoil of the persistent unwillingness of some of our partners to implement the decisions of UN Security Council and Geneva agreements. We demand both from Bashar al-Assad, and from the opposition to cease the armed confrontation, offering them the abovementioned concise measures that provide simultaneous disengagement of armor and troops from the cities. Some our colleagues demand it only from the government, and encourage the opposition morally, politically, financially and with supply of arms so that it could continue the combat activities, capture settlements, and, finally, seize power.

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We demand both from Bashar al- Assad, and from the opposition to cease the armed confrontation, offering them the abovementioned concise measures that provide simultaneous disengagement of armor and troops from the cities. Some our colleagues demand it only from the government, and encourage the opposition morally, politically, financially and with supply of arms so that it could continue the combat activities, capture settlements, and, finally, seize power.

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I repeat once again – we do not support Bashar al-Assad, we support the documents that were approved by everyone – plan of Kofi Annan, Resolutions of UN Security Council, the Geneva communiqué. We support these documents in all their fullness. They can be implemented only as a whole, not in one part which is particularly pleasant to someone. Thus we will approve any decision of the Syrian people on who will rule Syria — we just want it to be the decision of Syrians. Such a decision should be taken within the frame of preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country, provision of legitimate rights of all ethnic and religious groups. All issues connected with the reforms of political system and determination of parametres and terms of a transition period should be decided by Syrians themselves through the dialogue between the government and all oppositional groups as it is suggested in the plan of Kofi Annan and in the Geneva communiqué. Attempts to exclude someone from this process do not correspond to the achieved agreements. The role of external actors in this process should consist in forcing each and every one who is at war in Syria, to cease fire and start the dialogue, in the course of which the parametres of political process will be determined.

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I repeat once again – we do not support Bashar al-Assad, we support the documents that were approved by everyone – plan of Kofi Annan, Resolutions of UN Security Council, the Geneva communiqué. We support these documents in all their fullness. They can be implemented only as a whole, not in one part which is particularly pleasant to someone. Thus we will approve any decision of the Syrian people on who will rule Syria — we just want it to be the decision of Syrians.

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We are deeply concerned with the situation in Syria, which becomes more and more complicated. The conflict gains interconfessional dimensions. It disturbs us very seriously. We cannot remain ignorant to the destiny of Christians and other communities living in Syria. We are also preoccupied by the fact that, under numerous evidences, the “third force”, namely “al-Qaeda” and affiliated extremist organisations, became more active in the country. The abovementioned tendency is also observed in other parts of the region. It threatens regional safety, and it should be decisively stopped. To all those who is seriously concerned with the development of situation, it is clear that the way how the Syrian crisis will be resolved will in many respects define the model of reaction of the international community on future inner state conflicts. The Geneva decisions and resolutions of UN Security Council provide for implementation of such processes exclusively on the basis of international law, with respect to the principles of the United Nations secured in the Charter – first of all, principles of the sovereignty, territorial integrity of the states and non-intervention to their internal affairs.

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The conflict gains interconfessional dimensions…We cannot remain ignorant to the destiny of Christians and other communities living in Syria. We are also preoccupied by the fact that, under numerous evidences, the “third force”, namely “al-Qaeda” and affiliated extremist organisations, became more active in the country…. The Geneva decisions and resolutions of UN Security Council provide for implementation of such processes exclusively on the basis of international law, with respect to the principles of the United Nations secured in the Charter – first of all, principles of the sovereignty, territorial integrity of the states and non-intervention to their internal affairs.

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This is the second visit of the Special Envoy to the capital of Russia. The invitation of Kofi Annan to Russia proves our firm political support of his efforts and his plan comprising six items, which presumes peaceful political and diplomatic settlement of Syrian crisis. We are confident that this plan is the only viable basis for the solution of Syrian problems. I remind that the plan of Kofi Annan was approved by resolution No.2042 of the UN Security Council and thus obtained binding force for all parties.

Unconditionally, the important role in providing the implementation of decisions of the Geneva meeting and Resolutions of the UN Security Council belongs to Kofi Annan. Therefore we give great importance to forthcoming contacts with him in Moscow. We also continue to communicate with other external and internal actors, such as the government and various groups of opposition. Last week the representatives of oppositional structures, including the Syrian National Council, visited Moscow. Until now we have not managed to show them the necessity to abandon their radical requirements. They continue to claim that “revolution is coming” (you have certainly heard and read their statements). But it is not the thing that everyone needs to calm down the situation, to terminate the bloodshed, to save the lives of people and to assist to the beginning of the internal Syrian dialogue about the future of this country, which is very important for the region.

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AUTHOR: Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov 

Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov  is a Russian diplomat who has been the Foreign Minister of Russia since 2004. His nomination to the Foreign Minister office were approved by two Russian presidents, in 2008 by Medvedev, and in 2012 by Putin. Prior to that, Lavrov was a Soviet diplomat and Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1994 to 2004. In 1981, he was sent as a senior adviser to the Soviet mission at the United Nations in New York City, and worked there until 1988. He worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until 1994, when he returned to work in the United Nations, this time as the Permanent Representative of Russia. While in the latter position, he was President of the United Nations Security Council in December 1995, June 1997, July 1998, October 1999, December 2000, April 2002, and June 2003.

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