Although frustrated with the pace of reform in Syria, Russia is sending arms to the government in Damascus. France, meanwhile, wants to try the Syrian president before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said that Moscow was only supplying Syria's government with weapons to defend itself against external threats, as the French president called for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to be tried before an international court.
"We are selling weapons to Syria for its national defense, national security," Lavrov told lawmakers in the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma.
"We aren't providing Syria with any weapons that could be used against protesters, against peaceful citizens, helping fuel the conflict," he said." We aren't doing that, we are only helping Syria to protect its security against external threats."
The Russian foreign minister went on to defend Moscow's controversial position in the Syrian conflict, twice vetoing UN resolutions that would have condemned the regime's crackdown on anti-government protests.
"We aren't standing up for the regime or specific personalities, we are defending the international law that demands that internal conflicts are settled without foreign interference," Lavrov said.
France building a case
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meanwhile, has called for Syrian President Assad to be tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
"I think Bashar al-Assad is behaving like a murderer and should be made to answer before the International Criminal Court," Sarkozy told Europe-1 radio.
Paris has dispatched its senior human rights envoy to nations bordering Syria in order to collect evidence to submit to the ICC. Ambassador Francois Zimeray has been charged with collecting testimony from Syria refugees who have witnessed the conflict, according to diplomatic sources cited by the news agency AFP.
Since Syria is not a member of the ICC, the only way to bring a case against President Assad would be through a UN Security Council resolution. Russia, however, has opposed UN resolutions which it believes could lead to a Libya-style, Western-led military intervention in Syria.
In a joint press conference with UK Prime Minister David Cameron in Washington, US President Barack Obama said that it was premature to consider a military intervention in Syria, which could cause more deaths.
Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed frustration with Assad during his testimony before the Russian parliament, saying that the Syrian leader has implemented political reforms too slowly.
"Regrettably, he (Assad) hasn't always followed our advice in his activities," Lavrov said. "He has approved useful laws reviving the system and making it more pluralistic. But it has been done after a long delay, and the proposals about launching a dialogue also have been slow to come."
"Meanwhile, the armed confrontation is expanding and its inertia may sweep and engulf all," the Russian foreign minister said.
slk/rc (AP, AFP)