Russia will not allow Libya-style regime change in Syria: Lavrov
Russia, concerned about what it sees as the West’s desire for Libya-style regime change in Syria and keen to maintain its firmest Middle East foothold, said on Saturday it would not allow any military action against President Bashar al-Assad.
“We will not sanction the use of force at the United Nations Security Council,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in televised remarks.
Lavrov pointed to Libya, saying the military intervention that ousted former strongman Muammar Qaddafi destabilized the country, which he said is still unable to hold elections, and spread violence across the borders into Mali.
The Russian foreign minister warned that any similar international action against Syria would spread violence to neighboring countries, such as Lebanon, and would lead “to severe consequences for the entire Middle East region.”
“In order to justify a foreign intervention they keep talking about the refugees from Syria. However, nobody talks about refugees inside Syria itself,” Lvrov said.
“This is similar to the former Yugoslavia. Does anybody think about the refugees from Serbia and Slovenia?” he added.
He said Russia will not oppose the departure of Assad if such a move is a result of a dialogue between Syrians themselves and is not enforced through external pressure.
“If the Syrians agree (about Assad’s departure) between each other, we will only be happy to support such a solution,” Lavrov told reporters. “But we believe it is unacceptable to impose the conditions for such a dialogue from outside.”
Lavrov, whose country is pushing for a conference on Syria to include Iran despite U.S. protests, said that to deny Tehran a role in helping negotiate an end to the crisis would be “thoughtless.”
“To say that Iran doesn’t have a place because it is already to blame for everything and it’s part of the problem and not part of the solution ... this is thoughtless to say the least,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that it was “hard to imagine inviting a country that is stage-managing the Assad regime’s assault on its people.”
Two reported massacres in Syria in as many weeks have deepened doubts a U.N.-backed peace plan can work and prompted some Western states to threaten sanctions.
Russia and China have twice vetoed Western-backed Security Council resolutions critical of Syria, whose security forces have killed at least 10,000 people, by a U.N. count, while losing more than 2,600 of their own, according to Damascus.
Analysts say that if Moscow were to help engineer Assad’s exit it would hope to retain influence in Syria.
Assad’s government has bought billions of dollars worth of Russian weapons and hosts a Mediterranean logistical facility that is Russia’s only permanent warm-water naval port outside the former Soviet Union.