Peace mediator seeks stepped-up Russian role on Syria: envoys

UNITED NATIONS Tue Nov 6, 2012 12:23pm EST

1 of 4. A woman walks near a member of the Free Syrian Army standing guard at a checkpoint they took over early on Monday after clashes with pro-government forces in Salqin city in Idlib October 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N.-Arab League mediator in Syria's civil war, Lakhdar Brahimi, has urged Russia to be more "pro-active" in resolving the 19-month-old conflict, diplomats said on Tuesday, citing the U.N. political affairs chief.

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs, made the remarks at a closed-door session of the 15-nation Security Council on Syria, diplomats inside the council chamber told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"In his meeting with (Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov, Brahimi encouraged Russia to take a more 'pro-active' role in resolving the Syria crisis," a diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin declined to comment to reporters when asked about Feltman's comments.

Russia has accused Western powers of preparing a Libya-style military intervention in Syria that would lead to the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is Moscow's ally and a top buyer of Russian arms. It has vowed to prevent that.

Some 32,000 people have died in Syria's conflict.

Feltman also told the council he had received credible reports of the use of cluster bombs by Syrian government forces, the envoys said.

The Syrian government and a number of opposition groups had accepted Brahimi's proposal to hold their fire for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha October 26-29 but there was hardly any lull in the fighting.

"The question of who violated the truce first is therefore not the key question," a diplomat said, quoting Feltman. "The main issue is that despite interest on both sides to silence guns, the parties remain locked in their fears and mistrust."

Feltman did, however, suggest that jihadists were to blame for sparking violence during the ceasefire, a diplomat said.

Overall, Feltman said that since Friday violence has returned to pre-October 26 levels and has in fact escalated in the north. He also said October 30 was the first time that Syrian government fighter jets struck the Damascus suburbs. The military had previously used helicopters.

The Security Council has been deadlocked for more than a year on Syria. Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions condemning the Syrian government and have ruled out the idea of sanctioning Assad's government.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Eric Beech and Bill Trott)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (2)
JapanViewer wrote:
Whether you like Russia or not, getting Russia involved is a very good idea. They still wield a lot of influence on the Assad gvmt. Russia holds no religious or emotional ties to Syria. They can just as easily support an alternative government to Assad without flinching. Once Russia gets fed up with Assad, it will drop Assad like a hot potato and support someone else. The trick is to get Russia to get sick of Assad. Mmmm….

Nov 06, 2012 1:36pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Free_Pacific wrote:
“…Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the Syrian opposition to enter talks with the authorities to end the crisis and abandon a precondition that Assad step down…”

Also, meeting the defected Prime Minister of Syria in Jordan, it is fairly clear Russia wants Assad in power at all costs. China and Russia have gone ‘all in’. There is nothing positive from Russia or China’s involvement.

The Syria crisis was the first chance in a long time, for the Middle East to solve it’s own problems throught he Arab League… for the first time it showed the will and had the backing of all members of the UN and SC… all except 3. Iran, Russia and China… and all three of the above want to increase their influence in this region. Nothing positive will come from any of them. They want Assad to stay, they dont care how many people die.

Nov 06, 2012 7:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.