10 Jun 2012

Russia 'still opposes Syria intervention'

9:04 pm on 10 June 2012

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has again warned the United Nations Security Council not to take direct action against Syria after reports more people were killed in shelling overnight.

The BBC reports that as efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis continued, activists in Syria said more than 80 civilians had been killed by pro-government forces on Saturday.

Mr Lavrov also repeated calls for an international conference to implement UN envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.

He said Moscow would support the departure of President Bashar al-Assad, but only if Syrians agreed to it.

Speaking at foreign ministry in Moscow, Mr Lavrov said that the issue of foreign intervention in Syria was being posed in a "radical and quite emotional way".

He said foreign powers were encouraging the armed opposition to hope that "the Libyan scenario" could be repeated.

"All this is a dangerous game," he said.

"Our position remains unchanged. We will not agree to the use of force being authorised in the UN Security Council.

"That would lead to the gravest of consequences for the whole of the Middle East."

He said the intervention of "external forces" could result in a "catastrophic scenario" that would create an "arc of instability" from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.

Both Russia and China have opposed UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian government for continuing violence.

Mr Lavrov acknowledged that Mr Annan's six-point peace plan had begun to "seriously falter" but said Russia saw "no alternative".

He said that Moscow - which has resisted US-led calls for Mr Assad to stand down - was not opposed to his departure, but only against it being imposed on Syria from outside.

Israeli minister accuses Syria of genocide

A senior Israeli minister has accused Bashar al-Assad of committing genocide during his crackdown on a 15-month uprising, in an unusually harsh censure of the Jewish state's Arab neighbour.

Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz also criticised Russia for arming Damascus and repeated Israel's demand for international military intervention to topple President Assad, akin to last year's campaign in Libya.

Israel has until recently been slow to call for the president's fall, wary of worsening the turmoil in Syria.

The two countries are enemies but have been in a mostly stable stand-off for decades.

"A crime against humanity, genocide, is being conducted in Syria today. And the silence of the world powers is contrary to all human logic," said Mr Mofaz during an interview on Israel's Army Radio.

Foreign powers were "making do with flaccid condemnation" rather than intervening to overthrow Assad, he added.

"Worse than that is the Russian conduct, which weakly condemns the slaughter while continuing to arm Assad's murderous regime. Best-case, this is irresponsibility, and worst-case, it is a partnership in the slaughter," Mr Mofaz said.