by our Arab Affairs correspondent
RUSSIAN Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Syria for urgent talks, following the decisive Russian and Chinese veto at the United Nations that blocked renewed imperialist moves to use the UN as a rubber stamp for regime change in the Middle East. Meanwhile Anglo-American imperialism, along with some of its Nato allies and their reactionary Arab minions, have recalled their ambassadors and closed their embassies in Damascus.
The Russian minister received a hero’s welcome when he landed in Damascus. Huge crowds waving Syrian, Russian and Chinese flags lined the streets to greet the Russians on their way to meet President Assad and the rest of the Syrian leadership. Lavrov, accompanied by Mikhail Fradkov, the head of Russian intelligence, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday. Lavrov said: “The President of Syria assured us he was completely committed to the task of stopping violence regardless of where it came from”. According to Russian officials, Lavrov is seeking the “the swiftest stabilisation of the situation in Syria on the basis of the swiftest implementation of democratic reforms whose time has come”.
The Russian minister dismissed imperialist claims that by refusing to pass their UN Security Council resolution on Syria, Moscow lost an opportunity to resolve the crisis.
“We lost the opportunity to give the armed squads fighting against government forces a chance to occupy towns and villages,” Lavrov said.
The international community should not turn a blind eye to the fact that violence in Syria is coming both from the authorities and from the opposition armed forces, he added.
“Not to acknowledge this and to present things as if only government forces are shooting peaceful demonstrators — this does not fit into any limits. Half truths are worse than non-truths.”
Russia does not want a repeat of the “Libyan scenario” in which Nato used force against the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, thus overstepping its UN mandate of “protecting civilians”.
Lavrov also called on everyone to respect the Syrian government’s efforts at opening a national dialogue to resolve the political crisis. “Attempting to pre-determine the outcome of a national dialogue beforehand is basically not the business of the international community,” Lavrov stressed. “Both the government and all the Syrian opposition forces should sit down at the negotiating table.”
Back in New York Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, denied reports that he had threatened one of the feudal Arab emissaries during the Syria talks at the UN last week.
Some reports claim that the Qatari foreign minister had warned the Russian against “any veto on the crisis in Syria. Russia has to accept the UN decision, otherwise they will lose all the Arab countries .. “ to which Churkin then replied: “You speak to me again in that tone and Qatar won’t live long enough to see tomorrow.”
But the Russian diplomat said the story was a blatant lie. “If you do want to threaten anyone, you would never do it in front of 20 people, including ambassadors and members of the Arab League and the UN,” Churkin declared. The Russian diplomat dismissed the report as “dishonest, dirty and provocative” telling the media that somebody was trying to drive a wedge between Russia and the Arab world.
In fact the veto could have been avoided if the Western powers had allowed more time for debate. “I believe that if in fact our colleagues in the Security Council had accepted our proposal to extend our discussions for two or three days we could have found solutions which would help to end the violence in Syria,” Churkin said.
Churkin also said that apparently some linguistic misunderstandings took place during the discussions on the resolution, and there was not enough time to clarify them.
The Russians had argued that if Syrian government forces pulled out of the cities — one of demands in the imperialist resolution — they would then be immediately been taken over by the armed rebel groups and that is why Russia proposed amendments which would restrain the rebels as well as the Syrian army. But, Churkin said, Russia’s proposal was interpreted incorrectly.
The Russian envoy believes that negotiations are the only outcome possible for the situation in Syria. “Every conflict needs to be resolved through negotiations,” Churkin said. “There are two ways: one is a frontal attack against the regime, which means bloodshed and civil conflict spreading beyond the borders of Syria.”
The other way is “trying to put the parties at the table and to arrange dialogue among them in order to find a political solution without further bloodshed.”
Russia supports the other way and Moscow has been urging Syria’s opposition to come to Moscow for talks with the representatives of the Baathist-led popular front government.