Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov knows who is wagging the tail's dog over Syria, and indicated so during his June 21 interview with "Russia Today." Lavrov described the media frenzy around the Russian cargo ship that was carrying helicopters to Syria as "part of a campaign and not a very decent campaign, I would say." He said the ship had been carrying air defense systems and helicopters that had originally been acquired by Syria during the Soviet period, and had been returned to Russia for repair under a contract that had been signed in 2008. "But this story has another twist," he said, that being the withdrawal of insurance by the British company that had been providing coverage. "This is a testimony that the insurance system of Great Britain is not reliable, because they were citing sanctions imposed on Syria unilaterally by the EU." He warned that this means that "anyone—any country or any company—who is not violating international rules, who is not violating any UN Security Council resolutions might be subject to extra-territorial application of somebody else's unilateral sanctions. This is a very slippery slope." The trend towards extra-territorial application of unilateral sanctions is counter-productive, Lavrov said. "In principle dealing with any international issue you need to include partners with whom you have difficulties, not isolate them," he said. "Isolation never works."
Lavrov also strongly warned against military intervention in Syria. "I think intervention in Syria would be disastrous for the region," he said. "Syria is a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional country, whose different confessional groups have close relations to sister confessional groups in other countries." He pointed out that Lebanon has already been influenced by the developments in Syria, and there is also the Kurdish problem and violence against Christians. "Inter-ethnic clashes and strife can take place very fast and can embrace the entire region," he said. "To topple this balance [among the different confessional groups] would be catastrophic."
Yesterday, Lavrov met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in St. Petersburg, where he urged the Syrians to do more to implement the peace plan of UN envoy Kofi Annan. He told reporters after the meeting that Muallem had promised him that the Syrian government was ready for a "synchronized" withdrawal of both Syrian and opposition forces from the cities.