Russia May Back UN Draft on Syria
Russia's foreign minister said Thursday that Moscow could support a United Nations Security Council motion on Syria if it doesn't contain ultimatums to President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Sergey Lavrov said in Kyrgyzstan that Russia may vote in favor of a Security Council document backing UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan.
Lavrov didn't specify whether he was referring to a Council resolution or a statement, but warned that the document shouldn't contain any ultimatums or threats.
His remarks were made as a U.S.-drafted UN Security Council statement would have the 15-nation panel step up the pressure on Syria by ordering it to comply with an April 10 deadline to halt fighting and withdraw its forces from Syrian population centers.
The so-called “presidential statement”, drafted by the U.S. in cooperation with Britain, France and Germany, endorsing the timeline for ending a year-long conflict in Syria that has killed thousands could be adopted by the council on Thursday.
“The Security Council demands that the Syrian government immediately and verifiably implement its commitments ... to (a) cease troop movements towards population centers, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centers, and (c) begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers ... by 10 April 2012,” says the draft statement.
The draft is being prepared as an advance team of peacekeepers from the UN prepared to travel to Syria to lay the groundwork for an unarmed observer force.
Russia and China have twice used their veto power at the Council to block UN resolutions containing sanctions against Assad's government over its crackdown on an uprising that killed more than 9,100 people.
But Moscow has strongly supported Annan's plan and urged Assad to take the first step to end bloodshed, which the Syrian leader pledged to do from April 10.
Observers say Lavrov's comments may be intended to pressure Assad, who has ramped up his year-long onslaught on rebels and protest centers ahead of the looming cease-fire date.
A total of 92 people were killed yesterday in Syria. The revolutionary coordination committees announced the figure, saying that the heaviest casualties were in the cities of Homs, Idlib and Rif Dimashq.
The total includes six families, including nine children and six women. Meanwhile there were violent clashes at dawn today between the security forces of Assad and Free Syrian Army insurgents in Douma, near Damascus, where the regime sent big reinforcements earlier this week.
Local coordination committees in the Damascus area said that explosions and bursts of machine gun fire are shaking the suburb, which lies just 9 miles away from key government buildings, from which rise several columns of smoke are rising.
There were also reports from across Syria that Assad's forces were firebombing houses in towns known for rebel sympathies.