Russia: Qusayr offensive aimed at "counter terrorism"

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Published Monday, June 3, 2013

Russia said on Monday it blocked a UN Security Council declaration on the Syrian government offensive to retake of the town of Qusayr over the weekend because it amounted to a demand for a unilateral ceasefire by government forces.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich described what is happening in Qusayr, which has been the scene of intense fighting between rebels and government forces backed by Hezbollah troops for two weeks, as a "counter terrorist operation."

At the Security Council on Saturday, diplomats said Russia blocked a draft statement circulated by Britain that voiced grave concern about the situation in Qusayr and urged both sides to avoid civilian casualties.

It called on the government to "exercise its responsibility to protect civilians" and give aid workers access to trapped residents.

Lukashevich said this draft amounted to "a demand for the unilateral ceasefire by the Syrian military and passage out for bandits surrounded in several neighborhoods of the town."

"It can hardly be called timely to propose raising the voice of the international community in a situation when the Syrian army is completing a counter terrorist operation against militants who terrorized the population (of Qusayr) for months without restraint," he said.

Russia has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most powerful ally during a conflict that has killed tens of thousands since March 2011.

(Reuters)

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