Syrians wait for bread at a bakery in northern city of Aleppo
Russia warns West on Syria Rebels getting Western Arms

MOSCOW, Aug 21, (RTRS): Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West on Tuesday against unilateral action on Syria a day after President Barack Obama said US forces could intervene if his Syrian counterpart deployed chemical weapons against rebels trying to topple him.
Lavrov met China’s top diplomat and a Syrian government delegation in what appeared to be a push to keep diplomacy going at a time when fewer Western and Arab governments believe that a UN-backed peace plan can end the violence.
Russia and China have opposed military intervention in Syria throughout 17 months of bloodshed and have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states that would have raised pressure on Damascus to stop bloodshed.
Lavrov spoke at a meeting with China’s State Councillor Dai Bingguo a day after Obama, asked by reporters whether he might deploy forces in Syria under certain conditions, said: “A red line for us is (if) we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised.”
Lavrov said at the meeting with Dai that Russia and China base their diplomatic cooperation on “the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law and the principles contained in the UN Charter and not to allow their violation”.
“I think this is the only correct path in today’s conditions,” Lavrov told Dai, who also met President Vladimir Putin and his top security adviser, Nikolai Patrushev, on Monday for consultations that went unannounced by the Kremlin.
Lavrov’s remarks also underscored Moscow’s wish to keep international efforts to end Syria’s crisis within the United Nations, where Russia and China wield clout as two of the five permanent Security Council members with veto power.
Frustrated by the vetoes and by the refusal of Russia and China to join calls for Assad to leave power, the United States and other Western and Arab countries are seeking other ways to exert influence on the situation in Syria.
Western officials say that Russia’s vetoes have abetted the Syrian violence by encouraging Assad to pursue an offensive with his Russian-supplied armed forces to crush the popular revolt.
To help counter Assad’s superior firepower, Western powers are giving non-lethal equipment to rebels and Saudi Arabia and Qatar are believed to have funded arms shipments to them. The West has also increased sanctions against Assad’s government.
After the talks with Dai, Lavrov met a Syrian government delegation led by Qadri Jamil, deputy premier for economic affairs, who was in Moscow for the second time this month.
Lavrov said national reconciliation was still viable and the only way to stop bloodshed in Syria regardless of opponents of Damascus domestically and abroad.
“If everyone whom the destiny of Syria and its people depend upon realise their responsibility, there are chances for reconciliation,” Lavrov said. “The chances are far from 100 percent, but they do exist.”
He said a halt to fighting was the way to implement an agreement reached by world powers in June on the need to establish a transitional government.
Russia and the West have differed over what the agreement reached in Geneva meant for Assad, with Lavrov saying it did not imply he should step down and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying it sent a clear message that he must quit.
Jamil told Lavrov that the Syrian government wants national reconciliation and all sides must make compromises but that “external interference ... is hindering efforts for Syrians themselves to resolve the problem,” Interfax reported.
Later, he denied foreign military intervention in Syria would be possible because it would lead to a conflict beyond the country’s borders — a possible allusion to Syria’s sectarian divisions having parallels in neighbouring states.
Russia on Monday cited what it called increasing evidence that Syrian rebels were obtaining large amounts of Western-made arms, suggesting the United States and European countries are helping fuel persistent violence in the divided country.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov’s comments echoed others that appear intended to blame Western and Arab countries for the failure to end the conflict through diplomacy such as outgoing mediator Kofi Annan’s peace plan.
The West has accused Moscow of allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to act with impunity by repeatedly vetoing UN resolutions meant to pressure the Syrian government, which bought nearly $1 billion in arms from Russia last year.
“There is growing evidence, including in the media, that Syrian opposition is massively supplied with Western-made weapons through third countries,” Gatilov wrote on his Twitter microblog. He did not provide details.
The United States and Britain say they are providing non-lethal assistance to rebel such as communications equipment but not arms. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two strong Arab opponents of Assad, are believed to be funding a flow of weapons to rebels.
In announcing his resignation as peace envoy effective at the end of the month, Annan said “finger-pointing and name-calling” had induced the impasse over the conflict, which is sliding deeper into civil war after 17 months of violence.

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