MOSCOW – Russia on Wednesday cautioned against taking new UN action on Syria after the massacre of 108 civilians in Houla and sought more time for global envoy Kofi Annan’s imperilled peace plan to work.
The comments came just a day after the US State Department said it hoped last week’s tragedy would spark a “turning point” in Russia’s reluctance to take tougher action against its Soviet-era ally.
A growing group of world leaders including French President Francois Hollande have also refused to rule out armed intervention to stamp out fighting in which 13,000 are feared to have died.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the rebuke Syria has already received at the UN Security Council for the massacre went far enough.
“We believe that a review now by the Security Council of any new measures on the situation would be premature,” Gatilov told the Interfax news agency.
“It is essential to give the plan of Kofi Annan time to work.”
“And it is also important for all the outside players – including our Western partners – to put corresponding pressure on the opposition.”
Moscow has been a close Damascus ally since the Soviet era and supplies it with arms in exchange for the right to lease its strategic naval port and broader diplomatic influence over the volatile Middle East region.
Russia has also together with China blocked two Security Council resolutions condemning President Bashar al-Assad.
But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia was not a supporter of the Assad government and put the primary responsibility for the Houla attack on his troops.
Gatilov appeared hesitant to put any further pressure on Assad on Wednesday by noting that Russia had always opposed foreign intervention in internal conflicts.
“We have always said that we are categorically against any outside interference in the Syrian conflict because this will only exacerbate the situation for both Syria and the region as a whole,” Gatilov said.
He also called for a broader international discussion of how the 300 UN monitors assigned with Russia’s approval to Syria could be more effective in their work.
“Prehaps we need to reassess how the UN monitors are working and think about some additional mechanism that could control the implementation of Annan’s plan,” said Gatilov.
“I do not exclude that we may have to think about a broader international discussion of all issues linked with the Syrian peace process.”
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