Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Refuses To Blink on Syria
July 18, 2012 • 10:37AM

With time fast running out on the UN/Arab League Kofi Annan mission, which expires on July 20, the British are pushing for approval of their U.N. resolution to reauthorize the mission, but under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would open the door to foreign military intervention — London's intention from the outset. The British resolution is reportedly scheduled to be discussed tomorrow at the U.N. Security Council, and they and the Obama administration have told Russia that either they capitulate and go along with the Chapter 7 ploy, or the Annan commission will simply expire.

Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had called this by its name, "blackmail," and today he elaborated that Russia would not give in to the British chicken game and urged support for the Russian draft, instead. "If our partners decide to block our resolution no matter what, then the U.N. mission will not have a mandate and will have to leave Syria. That would be a pity," he said. Lavrov noted that if the mission is terminated, that would remove the only independent means of monitoring the conflict.

Meanwhile the formal diplomacy continues. Annan emerged from a meeting in Moscow today with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov, and he called on the U.N. Security Council to find a solution to the Syria crisis that everyone can support. "I would hope that the Council will continue its discussions and hopefully find language that will pull everybody together for us to move forward on this critical issue," he said. According to the UN press release, Annan said he had a "very good" discussion with Putin and Lavrov, focusing on what measures need to be taken to end the violence and the killing in Syria and how to proceed with a political transition there. According to various news reports, Putin promised, ahead of the meeting, Russia's full support for the Annan plan, but said very little else, disappointing those in the West who are looking for changes in the tea leaves in Russia's position on regime change.
Lavrov, for his part, came out saying that there's no reason that the UNSC can't come to an agreement such as that on a transitional government reached in Geneva. "We found a tough compromise at the conference called by Annan in Geneva," Lavrov told journalists. "I see no reason why we cannot come to an agreement on a similar basis at the Security Council."

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is in Beijing to pressure the Chinese, but the Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily warned against military intervention in Syria. "The life of Syria's current political leadership can only be determined by the Syrian people. This is an internal matter and the international community should respect that," the People's Daily said in an editorial. External intervention to achieve regime change and to prevent a humanitarian disaster may appear to be sensible and responsible reasons to act." But "several wars since the start of the new century has repeatedly proved that the 'promotion of democracy' and 'humanitarianism' are a pretext for foreign powers who seek personal gain," it added.

Meanwhile, fierce fighting is reported in Damascus for the third day in a row. An unidentified Damascus resident told Reuters that there was government shelling from artillery, mortars and helicopter gunships all night. An FSA officer told Reuters that thousands of rebel fighters had moved into the city from Hama, Homs, Idlib, and other places, but it's not their intention to tackle the city; at least, not yet. "We do not want to control Damascus, because we know we will not be able to do it or to topple him [Assad], but what we want to do is to control a few areas that we will use as operation points," said the unnamed officer. As usual, most reports of the fighting are based on uncomfirmable accounts provided by opposition groups, but are used to jack up the pressure on Russia and China, anyway.