Russia Says 'Cannot Support' Latest U.N. Syria Draft

| 04.02,12. 05:33 AM |


Russia Says 'Cannot Support' Latest U.N. Syria Draft 

Russia's deputy foreign minister said Friday that Moscow could not support the latest U.N. Security Council draft resolution on Syria in its current form, the Interfax news agency reported.

"Some of our concerns and the concerns of those who think the same as us have been taken into consideration but all the same this is not enough for us to be able to support it in this form," deputy minister Gennady Gatilov said.

"We still have a whole number of concerns over the content of this text and we will be ready to continue consultations on the draft resolution," Gatilov said.

"We are ready to continue work on modifying it, taking into consideration and based on our principled positions."

He spoke after a senior U.S. State Department official said that Washington was "cautiously optimistic" about winning Russia's support for the draft.

The latest draft does not explicitly call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down or mention an arms embargo or sanctions, though it "fully supports" an Arab League plan to facilitate a democratic transition.

The latest attempt at consensus emerged amid an impasse in the U.N. Security Council, with Russia leading the opposition to a tougher draft resolution authored by Western powers and the Arab League.

The new draft "fully supports" the January 22 Arab League request that Assad transfer power to a deputy and a government of national unity within two months but does not call on him to step down, according to a copy obtained by Agence France Presse.

Instead, it calls for a "Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system ... including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition under the League of Arab States' auspices, in accordance with the timetable set out by the League of Arab States."

Like previous versions, the draft "condemns all violence, irrespective of where it comes from."

Moscow, a long-standing Assad ally and one of his top arms suppliers, has declared that the U.N. body does not have authority to impose a resolution that calls for regime change in Syria, a position supported by China.

Moscow's U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said Wednesday that Russia will use its veto to block any Security Council resolution on Syria that it deems unacceptable.

"We will not allow a text to be adopted that we consider to be incorrect and will lead to a deepening of the conflict," Churkin was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Russia has stressed from the beginning of negotiations that the council not prejudge the outcome of a democratic transition in Syria by demanding that Assad cede power, and insisted that violence be condemned on all sides.

A top Russian defense official said Thursday that Moscow would not halt its arms exports to Damascus despite the violence, because there are no U.N. sanctions restricting such deliveries. There is, however, an EU arms embargo.

"As of today there are no restrictions on the delivery of weapons and we must fulfill our obligations" said Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov, quoted by Russian news agencies. "And this what we are doing."


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