Syria Deal Pushed by Russia Must Have Teeth, Clinton Says
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she “made the international community’s case” in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to put more pressure on the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
An accord negotiated in Geneva to call for a transitional coalition government won’t work “if it doesn’t have teeth,” Clinton said yesterday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Vladivostok, after meeting Lavrov the day before. Lavrov told her Russia sees the Geneva plan as the best chance for peace that’s not imposed by outside powers.
“As for the actions to achieve these goals, the U.S. tends to threaten, to increase pressure via more and more sanctions,” Lavrov told reporters. “We disagree with this in principle, because to solve the problems,” all parties need to be involved, not isolated, he said.
Russia and China have blocked three efforts at the Security Council by the U.S., the U.K. and France to increase pressure on the Syrian government. Clinton has publicly criticized Russia for blocking efforts to impose sanctions or other penalties on the regime of Assad, whose military forces cracked down last year on an opposition movement that became an armed resistance.
Syria is host to Russia’s only naval base in the region, and Russia has sold billions of dollars of weapons that have been used in the conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin urged outside powers on Sept. 6 to stop sending weapons to rebels in Syria to help end more than 18 months of fighting. Russia has repeatedly accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of arming Assad’s opponents.
The conflict has claimed more than 23,000 lives, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.S. is offering non-lethal support to opposition groups in the countries.
The administration of President Barack Obama should do more to persuade the Russians to change their strategy on Syria, said Martin Indyk, a former ambassador who is now director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based group, according to a transcript of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” which aired yesterday.
Obama ought to support a no-fly zone over Syria, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Clinton’s former policy planning chief, said on the same CNN program.
“We are really risking all-out war in the region,” she said. “We’re missing an enormous opportunity to actually shape what happens.”
Lavrov told reporters that Russia and the U.S. “have common goals. We want Syria to be a free, democratic, prosperous country led by the government elected by the people.”
Lavrov said Russia also supports a proposal by an opposition group -- the National Coordination Committee -- to convene a conference in Damascus to agree on a united negotiating position for talks with Assad’s government.
U.S. officials say the group isn’t representative of the entire opposition.
Lavrov said he told Clinton that U.S. sanctions against Syria and Iran are hurting Russian businesses, in particular banks.
“This approach is unacceptable,” Lavrov told reporters Sept. 8. “We don’t support sanctions as sanctions don’t bring results.”
Syrian government forces killed 112 people across the country yesterday, the opposition Local Coordination Committee said in an e-mailed statement. Thousands of Syrians were stranded at the border with Turkey yesterday awaiting permission from the Turkish government to enter the country, according to Al Jazeera.
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