Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, warned other nations again on Wednesday not to arm the Syrian opposition, saying it would only escalate hostilities.
Speaking during a trip to Azerbaijan, Lavrov was quoted by The Associated Press as having said the Syrian opposition wouldn’t be able to overwhelm government forces even if it was supplied with weapons from abroad.
Lavrov, according to AP, warned that a foreign military intervention would lead to even more disastrous consequences for Syria, where President Bashar Assad’s forces have violently cracked down on a yearlong uprising in which more than 9,000 people have died.
“Even if they arm the Syrian opposition to the teeth, it won’t be able to defeat the Syrian army," he said. “The carnage will go on for many years.”
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have backed the idea of arming the opposition but the West remains opposed. Western nations moved instead to create a fund for the rebels at a meeting in Istanbul.
Russia, along with China, twice vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions on Syria, but Moscow has also strongly supported UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, which gives an April 10 deadline for Syrian troops to pull out of towns and cities.
Lavrov reaffirmed on Wednesday that Assad needs to take the first step to end bloodshed, but said all international players need to back Annan’s proposals.
He criticized Sunday’s meeting of the "Friends of the Syrian People" in Istanbul, saying it sent signals to the opposition that would undermine Annan’s plan.
Meanwhile, fierce clashes erupted Wednesday after Syria’s regime sent reinforcements into rebel areas despite a truce pledge.
Syrian activists said there have been explosions and clashes across the country on Wednesday.
The surge in violence, which began even as Syrian officials claimed a pullout was underway, killed at least 74 people, mostly in northwestern Idlib province.
On Sunday, a coalition of more than 70 partners, including the United States, pledged to send millions of dollars and communications equipment to Syria's opposition groups.