Russia’s Foreign Minister has reiterated that the international community must allow the Middle East nations to decide their own fate for themselves or the crisis could lead to a war far beyond the region’s borders.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday summing up foreign policy over the course of 2011, Sergey Lavrov dwelled extensively on the current situation in North Africa and the Middle East. The Russian official said that his country strongly opposed both the violence in the region and foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Mideast countries. He stressed that Russia’s approach to the crisis in Syria was to move to bring an immediate end to the violence and this approach was shared by the League of Arab States.
The Russian minister said that foreign nations must respect the choice of the people of the Middle East as long as this choice remains within the constitutional field. He said that other countries must not attempt to intervene in regional affairs, especially if this meant military involvement. Sergei Lavrov again warned that the situation could develop into a full-scale war that would cause damage both within and beyond the Mideast region.
When reporters asked the minister about recent reports by Russian officials that NATO countries were preparing an operation in Syria, Lavrov said that the principle sources of this information were in Western countries, but that some independent confirmation had also been received. At the same time, Lavrov said Russia had listened to its Western partners when they refuted the reports, and hoped that these statements were sincere. Lavrov said that supplying weapons to Syrian extremists was unacceptable, as were possible border provocations involving so-called humanitarian convoys, as such an approach was counterproductive.
As for the accusations that a Russian ship had supplied arms to Syria, the Russian minister stressed that his country was strictly observing the international trade laws and had no need to justify itself. He also said that unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria by Western states were undermining the collective effort to find a political solution to the crisis.