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28 November 2023

Russia warns of 'scandal' if UN vote on Syria text


Russia said Saturday the Western-backed text of a UN Security Council resolution on the violence in Syria did not suit Moscow at all and warned of a "scandal" if that draft was brought to a vote.

"If they (the West) want yet another scandal on the Security Council for themselves then we cannot stop them" putting the draft to a vote, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian television.

"The draft does not suit us at all and I hope that it is not put to a vote," he added.

A diplomat at the United Nations said earlier the UN Security Council will meet later Saturday to vote on the resolution condemning the violent repression in Syria.

Lavrov gave the interview to Russian state television at a Moscow airport early Saturday before heading to the Munich Security Conference where he met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

He said that the changes Russia wanted to make to the resolution were "well known" and that he had already sent them to Clinton.

"There can be no doubt about the sense and the objectivity of these amendments. I hope that a prejudiced approach does not prevail over common sense," he added.

Later, responding to questions in Munich, Lavrov appeared to tone down his remarks, but insisted on Russia's right to veto.

"We are not saying that this resolution is hopeless. I talked to Secretary Clinton yesterday. I will meet her soon here. We circulated amendments to this resolution which are intended to fix these two basic problems," he said.

He said Moscow had objections to what he termed: "The imposition of the terms and conditions of the dialogue, which must be started without prejudging the results."

He also said that "measures must be taken to influence not only the government ... but also the armed groups, because unless you do it both ways, you are taking sides in a civil war."

Russia has repeatedly objected to the current text -- introduced by Morocco and backed by Western powers -- saying any resolution must make clear it cannot be used to justify foreign military intervention in Syria.

Moscow is also vehemently against a call for President Bashar al-Assad to step down and opposes any arms embargo against Syria, which remains one of Russia's prime weapons buyers.

"We are not friends or allies of President Assad, we try to stick to our responsibilities as permanent members of the Security Council and the Security Council by definition does not engage in the domestic affairs of its member states," he told the Munich audience.

"While we are all concerned with the rule of law and human rights and democracy, let us not forget that rule of law must prevail in international relations as well.

"And democratic decision-making as reflected in the charter, including the right of veto, must be respected," he stressed.

Unless the five permanent members agree, "you don't have a decision that is viable," added Lavrov.

Analysts have said that Russia is defying the West despite the escalating violence in Syria that has already left thousands dead as it fears Assad's departure would cost Moscow its last remaining ally in the region.

The Kremlin appears to be seeking to prevent a repeat of the conflict in Libya where a NATO air campaign led to the ousting of its ally Moamer Kadhafi and the loss of key arms contracts for the Russian weapons industry.