MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow’s concern about Syria’s conflict is growing but that Russia will continue to oppose the outside use of force.
Lavrov told reporters Saturday that “the situation is becoming more alarming” and that there is a growing impression the country is on the brink of civil war.
He said two recent attacks had put Russians in the capital Damascus in danger: a bus carrying Russian specialists that came under fire on Saturday and a Friday grenade attack on a building where Russians live. There were no injuries, he said.
Despite growing concerns that the situation may be spinning out of control, Russia as a member of the United Nations Security Council “will not sanction the use of force,” he said. Russia has blocked proposed UN resolutions to impose sanctions on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Lavrov said Russia’s resistance to intervention in Syria is “not because we are protecting Assad and his regime, but because we know that Syria is a complicated multi-confessional state and because we know that some of those calling for military intervention want to ruin this and turn Syria into a battleground for domination in the Islamic world.”
Russia has been a strong supporter of the mission of UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, who has put forth a plan for ending the violence between Assad’s forces and opposition fighters.
But the plan is severely stumbling amid the rise in violence, and Lavrov said an international conference should convene to galvanize international commitment to the plan.
He said participants should include the permanent members of the Security Council, the European Union and influential countries in the region. He did not specifically mention Iran as a possible participant.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, however, told the Interfax news agency on Saturday that Iran had a “full right” to participate and that its influence on Syria meant it could play a “constructive role in seeking ways to resolve the Syrian conflict.”
The US has already stated its opposition to the Islamic Republic’s inclusion.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that it was “hard to imagine inviting a country [to the conference] that is stage-managing the Assad regime’s assault on its people.”
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