Russia seeks monitors, China presses political solution in Syria

Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012

China and Russia were both active on Tuesday in pressing for a political resolution to the Syrian crisis, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling for international monitors to observe a ceasefire in the country.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was discussing the proposal both with the Arab League and at the United Nations, where the Security Council debated the crisis on Monday.

"The objective is for both sides to understand that there is an independent observer watching how they meet demands – and we are definitely going to be making such demands – for an immediate ceasefire," he said.

"This must be simultaneous. We must not have a situation in which the government is required to leave the cities and villages while the armed groups are not made to do the same.

"This is unrealistic, not because we want the bloodshed to continue, but because the unilateral withdrawal of government forces is completely unrealistic," Lavrov told reporters.

"The Syrian authorities will not go for that, whether we like it or not."

Lavrov argued that President Bashar Assad's forces will continue to wage their campaign until Western and Arab governments with sway over the opposition can force the rebel forces to also lay down their arms.

Russia and China have vetoed two Western-backed UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, and Moscow has expressed reservations about a new US-backed version of the text now under discussion.

China was also on a diplomatic offensive to bridge international divisions over the Syrian crisis, with Chinese envoy Zhang Ming saying on Tuesday that Beijing and Arab countries agree on the need to find a "political solution."

"We all recognize that there is great agreement between China and the Arab League for a political solution to the Syrian crisis," Ming said after talks at the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League.

He told reporters he was on a mission to discuss a six-point Chinese initiative and talk with Arab officials about ways of reaching "international agreement and finding a peace solution."

The initiative calls for dialogue between Assad's regime and the opposition and rejects foreign interference or "external action for regime change" in Syria.

Last week, China said it would be dispatching envoys to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France to explain its position on Syria.

Beijing and Moscow are critical of what they see as Western and Gulf Arab attempts to sow discord in Syria and plunge the country into civil war.

On Monday, China's UN ambassador Li Baodon insisted there could be no military intervention in Syria and denied that "self-interests" had motivated its veto of the UN Security Council resolutions.

Li also announced US$2 million in humanitarian aid for Syria.

The United Nations now says that more than 8,000 people have been killed in Syria's year-long violence.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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