Russia to keep blocking UN sanctions on Syria

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is standing firm on blocking any U.N. sanctions against Syria, its longtime ally and a significant arms customer, saying that any resolution by the world body must exclude the possibility of international military involvement such as in Libya.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that U.N. approval for sanctions against Syria mirroring those by other nations would be “unfair and counterproductive.”

The U.S., the European Union, the Arab League and Turkey all have introduced sanctions against Damascus in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s violent crackdown on opponents. The uprising has left more than 5,400 people dead, according to the U.N. estimates.

The U.N. Security Council has been unable to agree on a resolution since the violence began in March because of strong opposition from Russia and China.

Russia, resistant to what it believes to be Western hegemony, characteristically opposes interventionism and the imposition of sanctions. This week, it harshly criticized new European Union sanctions against Iran regarding its nuclear program.

Lavrov said Russia’s own draft of a U.N. resolution regarding Syria, which circulated earlier this month, remains on the table, and Moscow is open for any “constructive proposals.” The draft calls on all parties to stop the violence, citing the “disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities” and urging the Syrian government “to put an end to suppression of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

But Western diplomats said the Russian proposal falls short of their demand for a strong condemnation of the Syrian regime’s crackdown.

Lavrov affirmed any U.N. resolution must say clearly it “couldn’t be interpreted to justify any foreign military interference in the Syrian crisis.”

“We believe that our approach is fair and well-balanced, unlike the attempts to pass one-sided resolutions that would condemn only one party and, by doing so, encourage another one to build up confrontation and take an uncompromising stance,” Lavrov said after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. “We have seen that in Libya, and we will not allow repetition of the Libyan scenario.”

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