Last updated: 18 April, 2012

Russia says Syria rebels trying to stir up violence

Russia on Wednesday accused the armed opposition in Syria of trying to provoke violence that could involve foreign powers and said it saw nothing standing in the way of dialogue.

“There are plenty of those who would like to see (Kofi) Annan’s plan fail in hopes of then demanding other options — primarily meaning the use of (outside) force,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.

“I will remind you that the leading opposition forces, including the Syrian National Council, have still not officially confirmed their agreement with Annan’s plan,” Lavrov said.

Russia’s top diplomat said most members of the Syrian opposition had earlier called strongman Bashar al-Assad’s vice president — nominated to hold talks with the regime’s opponents one year ago — as “an acceptable dialogue partner.”

“So I do not see any problems here,” said Lavrov when asked about the possibility of the dialogue envisioned by Annan’s six-point initiative either never materialising or failing.

Russia has been condemned by Western and Arab states for vetoing together with China two UN Security Council resolutions blaming Assad for violence that a Syrian observers group says has claimed more than 11,100 lives.

It has recently placed more pressure on Assad to negotiate while also repeatedly lashing out at other powers for what Russia views as their failure to convince the opposition to engage in direct talks.

Lavrov accused foreign powers on Wednesday of trying to “privatise” the settlement process by stepping outside the UN Security Council and holding meetings of the Friends of Syria group that support the current regime’s ouster.