x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Russia warns Israel over Syria strikes

Russia says it is deeply concerned by reported Israeli air strikes against Syria, warning that such attacks are 'unacceptable' and a 'brazen' breach of international law.

MOSCOW // Russia said today it was deeply concerned by reported Israeli air strikes against Syria, warning that such attacks were "unacceptable" and a "brazen" breach of international law.

The foreign ministry said it was urgently checking Syrian claims that Israeli jets had bombed a military research centre and other reports that a convoy near the Lebanese border had also been targeted.

"If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked strikes against targets located on the territory of a sovereign state, which brazenly infringes on the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motive used for its justification," said a ministry statement.

Russia has been one of Syria's strongest supporters and has repeatedly cautioned against foreign military intervention in the conflict.

Moscow stressed that message again on Thursday amid official silence from Israeli officials over the Syrian claims and reports.

"We once again call on the end to all violence in Syria, underscoring the inadmissability of any type of intervention from abroad, and the start of inter-Syrian dialogue based on the Geneva agreements of June 30, 2012," the Russian statement said.

Russia has outraged western and Arab nations by refusing to join international calls for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to step down and continues to supply its Soviet-era ally with weapons.

Moscow has instead backed a pact that bickering world powers agreed to last year in Geneva in a bid to form a transition government.

That accord defined no specific role for Assad and proved to be unacceptable to the armed opposition because of its demands on him to step aside.

UN-Arab League crisis envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has shuttled between world capitals in recent weeks hoping to push the Geneva accord on all parties.

But the Brahimi told the Security Council this week that the pact could not be saved in its current form and needed to be altered to work.

"I'm not calling on the Security Council to take action because the Geneva declaration that contains, indeed, a lot of elements that would provide for a reasonable solution to the conflict cannot be implemented as is," Brahimi told the Security Council in published remarks.

"It needs action from the council and I have suggested a few ideas to them."

A top Russian official quickly rejected the idea of the Security Council taking action because "the Council has already made a number of important decisions" on Syria.

"I do not think that in current conditions, the UN Security Council will start work on a new resolution," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the Interfax news agency.

"We are not talking about that yet," Gatilov said.

Russia has vetoed three Security Council resolutions sanctioning Assad for violence that UN estimates say has killed more than 60,000 people since March 2011.

Its position has been backed throughout by China and Russia on Thursday dismissed charges from some powers about it sharing blame for the violence.

"As far as the UN Security Council's role in the Syria settlement is concerned, I would like to point out that the council keeps the situation in Syria in focus and is fulfilling its obligations to the full," Gatilov said.