x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Russia stands firm on diplomacy to solve Syria's crisis

The Russian ambassador to the UAE comments that Moscow has played a diplomatic role to solve Syria's crisis, while other countries have stoked the conflict.

The wars of today are not waged only on the battlefields. In the case of Syria, the battles are being fought in the programmes of the well-known Arab satellite channels and in the pages of regional newspapers. Audiences are being persuaded that the regime of President Bashar Al Assad is responsible for everything - as is Russia, which is said to be providing him with all kinds of assistance. The fundamentals of nonpartisanship and impartiality are being sacrificed for the sake of labelling and achieving particular political goals.

It may sound like a revelation for The National, which ran a recent editorial under the headline Russia cannot wash its hands of Syrian blood, but it is Russia which first raised the Syrian issue in the UN Security Council. Upon our initiative, the basic principles were developed to be incorporated later on into two UNSC resolutions and the Geneva Communiqué of the Action Group for Syria.

The editorial talks about Russia "doing nothing meaningful", but forgets that it is Russia that constantly contacts both the Syrian authorities and all the opposition groupings. We motivate Syrians to seek a settlement of internal problems by peaceful means, through broad national dialogue, without imposing solutions from abroad. Any other patterns are fated to be nondurable and ineffective.

Those who present the issue as if Russia were responsible for the deterioration of the current conflict in Syria ignore the fact that not all foreign actors are interested in its peaceful resolution. These sides in particular did their best to withdraw Arab League observers from Syria, and create unbearable conditions for the personnel of the UN monitoring mission. Each time there was a slight chance to obtain unbiased information about the developments in Syria, or get at least a bit closer to a political settlement, these parties reduced that chance to zero.

If the primary goal is really to achieve international consent regarding the ways to settle the Syrian crisis, an urgent focus on the implementation of the existing consensus - ie, the Geneva Communiqué - is needed. All international parties should influence both conflicting sides in order to make them finally stop the bloodshed. None of our partners, who have direct influence on the so-called Syrian opposition, have even tried to implement it yet. While they formally confirm their commitment to the Geneva Communiqué, they ignore our efforts to approve the understanding in the UN Security Council.

Instead, the suggestion is that the Security Council should adopt a different document - which would allow the international community to offer de facto support to one of the conflicting parties. We have had such an experience before, and we know how some of our partners can interpret UNSC resolutions to justify actions that are not sanctioned. The examples of such actions are well known, and their grave consequences are perceptible in the region today.

The UN Security Council is authorised to deal with the resolution of conflicts, not conduct revolutions or regime change. We will never allow parties to take advantage of the Security Council to promote adventurous ventures having nothing to do with international law and the aim of upholding international peace and security.

It is clear that it is not the welfare of the Syrian people that drives the actions of some countries, which divide terrorists into "bad" or "good", openly siding with the opposition and providing it with military support. They ignore the murder of ordinary Syrians who live in the territories that are under control of the central authorities. As Russia calls for all the opposition groupings to unite for the sake of holding serious negotiations with the regime, some western and Middle Eastern parties encourage opponents of Mr Al Assad to wage war to "the victorious end". Not only do they refuse to deal with the president of Syria, but they try to suffocate him through the economic sanctions.

It would be naive to think that those who fight against the Syrian army are ordinary citizens who were forced to take up arms by the "violations" of the authorities. They are not only former army officers who decided to side with the opposition.

The real picture, which can be proved by western sources, is that quite a number of religious extremists and mercenaries of every stripe, including Al Qaeda members, are united today under the banners of the opponents of Mr Al Assad. And their ambitions differ greatly from the aspirations of the Syrian people.

If the situation continues along this scenario, the country is going to slide into the chaos of sectarian war with the risk that it will spill into the neighbouring states and even echo in more distant parts of the Arab world. It is not a secret that some confessional and ethnic minorities are among the allies of Mr Al Assad inside Syria, and they are concerned about their own security in case of the victory of the "revolution".

We would like to stress, once again, that Russia does not defend the regime in Syria but stands for the principles of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-intervention in a nation's internal affairs, and other fundamentals of international law. These fundamentals have a universal nature and cannot be observed selectively, depending on geopolitical or other subjective concerns. If the change of Mr Al Assad's regime is the most important issue for some parties, the price for such an approach will be new victims and destruction. As for Russia - we try our best to avoid these casualties.


Andrew Andreev is the Russian Federation's ambassador to the UAE

On Twitter: @RusEmbassyUAE