Minister: foreign intervention "impossible" in Syria
Published Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Updated 6:42pm: The Syrian government said on Tuesday foreign military intervention in Syria was "impossible" because it would lead to a conflict beyond the country's borders.
Deputy Syrian Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, speaking at a news conference in Moscow, appeared to be responding to President Barack Obama's threat that US forces could act if Syria deployed chemical weapons against rebels.
"Direct military intervention in Syria is impossible because whoever thinks about it...is heading towards a confrontation wider than Syria's borders," he said.
"Obama's threats are simply propaganda linked to the US elections," Jamil told reporters after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Seeking re-election in November, Obama noted on Monday that he had refrained "at this point" from ordering US military engagement in Syria. But when he was asked at a White House news conference whether he might deploy forces, for example to secure Syrian chemical and biological weapons, he said his view could change.
"We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised," Obama said. "That would change my calculus."
The statement brought a rebuke from Russia, with Lavrov saying that Russia and China agree that violations of international law and the United Nations charter are impermissible.
Both countries have opposed military intervention in Syria throughout 17 months of bloodshed and have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Gulf Arab states that targeted Damascus.
Russia and China base their diplomatic cooperation on "the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law and the principles contained in the UN Charter, and not to allow their violation," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying at a meeting with Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo.
"I think this is the only correct path in today's conditions," Lavrov said.
Israel and the US have issued a number of warnings to Syria over its chemical weapons stockpile in recent weeks, raising fears of a possible Israeli military intervention.
But an Israeli official last month told Haaretz newspaper that Assad was "dealing with [the] chemical weapons in a responsible manner."
Assad resignation possible
Jamil also said the government was willing to discuss the issue of Assad resigning in order to form a national government, the most senior figure to consider such a proposal.
"As far as his resignation goes – making the resignation itself a condition for holding dialogue means that you will never be able to reach this dialogue. But any problems can be discussed during negotiations. We are even ready to discuss this issue," he said.
For his part, Lavrov urged Jamil to increase efforts to end the bloodshed.
"From what we see in Syria, it seems that this is not enough," RIA Novosti, Russia's international news agency, quoted Lavrov as telling Syria's Jamil at the start of their talks.
Jamil responded by saying that dialogue was the only path to end the violence.
"Solving the Syrian crisis requires dialogue without preconditions," Jamil said, adding that "there are principles to launch the dialogue, the first of which is rejecting foreign interference and the rejection of violence in all its forms."
Russia has stepped up its calls on the Syrian government to undertake more serious efforts at peace talks.
Lavrov stressed that Russia still firmly believed that only the Syrians themselves could end the fighting and urged Assad's team to energetically pursue its current course.
"We remain convinced that there is no way other than a continuation of this line of action," Lavrov said.