Russia’s Foreign Ministry has announced opposition to a no-fly zone to aid Syrian rebels (pictured). US President Barack Obama is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at G-8.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich also said that Russia had concerns over plans by the United States and other nations to ship arms to the Syrian opposition. US President Barack Obama had authorized lethal aid to the rebels for the first time on Friday, after Washington said it had conclusive evidence that the regime of Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons. Syria and Russia have accused Obama of fabricating the evidence.
"We don't see any need for such plans and believe that they are counterproductive", Lukashevich was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. He added that "preparations currently carried out by the US on Jordanian territory amount to a direct violation of international law."
Syria's army has won recent key battles in the country's center and west and is moving north, toward the country's largest city, Aleppo, where the rebels had maintained a stronghold since the war began in March 2011 as a series of peaceful protests before harsh crackdowns by al-Assad's regime. At least 93,000 people have been killed since then, according to a UN estimate. Millions have also been displaced.
Syria should figure high on the agenda at this week's G-8 meeting in Northern Ireland, with Russia standing in stark opposition to any sort of resolution so far put forth by other nations present, especially the United States.
On Monday, G-8 host British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged the ideological chasm but said that Russia must push for negotiations as rapidly as possible and not to back a government that "butchers" its citizens.
'Peace and calm'
In his first press conference, Hassan Rowhani, declared the winner of Iran's presidential election on Saturday, spoke out against any intervention.
"The Syrian crisis must be resolved by the people of Syria," Rowhani said. "We are against terrorism, civil war, and foreign intervention. Hopefully, with the help of all countries of the region and the world, peace and calm will return to Syria". He added that "the government must be respected by other countries until the next elections, and then it is up to the people to decide."
Syria is scheduled to next vote for president in 2014. Russia has sold arms to the al-Assad regime; Iran has provided indirect military assistance through the Lebanon-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
mkg/dr (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)