Far from Russia's backing down, statements made today by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich dubbed the U.S.-British policy in Syria "immoral." In particular, Lukashevich was responding to suggestions by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at the July 6 Paris Friends of Syria meeting, that "Russia and China will pay a price" for their "support" for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Lukashevich said that "Russia, China and a number of other countries which have traditionally friendly relations with the Syrian Arab Republic and its people have refused to join those 'friends' [of Syria] because we believe that the format that they have chosen is not only politically wrong, but also immoral..." He warned, reports RIA Novosti, that the "friendship" of the U.S. and its allies with the Syrian opposition could further deepen the conflict. "This would mean only one thing—the continuation of bloodshed and new human tragedies," he said.
Following closely on the heels of Lukashevich was UN Envoy Kofi Annan, who, in an initerview with the Paris daily Le Monde echoed many of the warnings that the Russians have issued in recent days, including on the Syrian so-called opposition, though perhaps in more diplomatic language. Annan admitted that his mission has so far failed, but he particularly zeroed in on the criticisms of Russia coming from the Western interests demanding the overthrow of Assad. He said there is no alternative to Russian involvement in finding a solution, and that Iran also has to be part of the solution. "But what strikes me is that so many comments are made on Russia, while Iran is least mentioned," he said. But "more importantly, little is known about other countries sending arms, money... All these countries say they want a peaceful solution, but they take individual and collective initiatives that undermine the very meaning of the resolutions of the Security Council." Focusing on Russia, therefore, "is very irritating" for the Russians.
Underscoring the importance of Russia's role is the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be meeting with two opposition groups this coming week. A diplomatic source told the Journal of Turkish Weekly that Lavrov will meet with representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forum group in Moscow on July 9, and he is set to hold talks with the new head of the Syrian National Council on July 11.