Russia defies West, US on Iran and Syria crises
MOSCOW / WASHINGTON
Russian FM Lavrov gestures during a news conference in Moscow yesterday. ‘There will be large flows of refugees from Iran, including to Azerbaijan, and from Azerbaijan to Russia [...]’ Lavrov said referring to a possible military action against Iran.
Russia yesterday insisted it would not back sanctions on Iran and Syria and warned against military intervention targeting either regime. The statement came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to redouble efforts to force a change of regime in Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would reject any attempts at securing a U.N. sanction for military intervention in Syrian affairs. “If some intend to use force at all cost [...] we can hardly prevent that from happening,” he said. “But let them do it on their own initiative, on their own conscience, they won’t get any authorization from the U.N. Security Council.”
Lavrov also said Russia didn’t consider it necessary to respond to suspicions that a Russian ship had delivered munitions to Syria despite an EU arms embargo.
“For us, the red line is fairly clearly drawn. We will not support any sanctions [against Syria],” Lavrov added, saying that the West had already introduced measures against Damascus without consulting Russia or China.
His comments came as diplomats in Brussels said European Union foreign ministers were set to slap fresh sanctions on Syria next week, adding 22 individuals and eight companies to an existing blacklist. The sanctions are expected to be announced by foreign ministers meeting on Jan. 23 in Brussels, another EU diplomat said. No details were immediately available on the identities of the new targets.
The EU has already agreed to 10 rounds of sanctions against the Syrian regime, with some 120 people and companies targeted so far by an EU assets freeze and travel ban.
Lavrov issued a similarly stern warning over the risks of a military attack on Iran over its nuclear drive. The foreign minister said Russia is “seriously worried” about the prospect of military action against Iran and “is doing all it can to prevent it.”
“The consequences will be extremely grave,” he said. “It’s not going to be an easy walk. It will trigger a chain reaction and I don’t know where it will stop […] I have no doubt that it will only add fuel to the fire of Sunni-Shiite tension. There will be large flows of refugees from Iran, including to Azerbaijan, and from Azerbaijan to Russia [...] This will not be a walk in the park.”
Meanwhile, Israel said any decision about a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities remains “very far away.”
“We don’t have a decision to go forward with these things. We don’t have a decision or a date for taking such a decision. This whole thing is very far away,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio.
Obama said concerns about the crackdown on demonstrators by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had been “uppermost” in talks with visiting Jordanian King Abdullah II on Jan. 17. “We continue to see unacceptable levels of violence inside that country,” Obama said. “We will continue to consult very closely with Jordan to create the kind of international pressure and environment that encourage the current Syrian regime to step aside so that a more democratic process and transition can take place inside of Syria.”