Troop pullout begins, Mualllem tells Lavrov

Troop pullout begins, Mualllem tells Lavrov

Troop pullout begins, Mualllem tells Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2nd R) and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem (2nd L) speak during their meeting in Moscow April 10, 2012. REUTERS/Pool

Syria’s foreign minister told Moscow yesterday Damascus has started withdrawing troops in line with Kofi Annan’s peace plan but Russia said the regime should implement the initiative more decisively.

The rare visit by the veteran Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to Moscow coincided with a deadline under the Annan plan for Syria to withdraw forces from protest cities. “I told my Russian colleague of the steps Syria is taking to show its goodwill for the implementation of the Annan plan,” Muallem said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “We have already withdrawn military units from different Syrian provinces.”

He added that a ceasefire should begin “simultaneously” with the arrival of international observers. Muallem said Damascus wanted guarantees from Annan, “not from terrorists.” He also said that Annan told him in a recent telephone call that a ceasefire would be followed by disarming of the rebels. Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian National Council spokeswoman Basma Qadmani said yesterday that new conditions set by the Damascus regime was “unacceptable.”

Syria to top G8 meeting

Lavrov however made clear said that Syria should be more decisive in fulfilling the plan of U.N.-Arab League envoy Annan, which most notably calls on Syria to pull out government forces and weaponry from cities hit by protests. “We believe their actions could have been more active, more decisive when it comes to the implementation of the plan,” “We believe their actions could have been more active, more decisive when it comes to the implementation of the plan,” he said. He also called for a speedy deployment of international observers. “One more time, we call parties which are effective on Syrian opposition, especially on armed opposition, to use their powers for cease fire,” Lavrov said, adding that he will raise this issue in G8 foreign ministers meeting. Foreign ministers of the Group of Eight (G8) major economies will meet this week in Washington to tackle pressing regional and global security issues like Syria, Iran and North Korea.

Muallem accuses Turkey

With tensions riding high between Damascus and Ankara after Syrian forces fired shots into a refugee camp across the Turkish border, Muallem accused Turkey of undermining the Annan plan by helping the rebels.

“Turkey... supports illegal Syrian militant groups, supplies them with weapons... and lets them illegally cross into Syria,” Muallem said. “How can we [fulfill the plan] if there are still illegal arms deliveries and moving of militants from Turkey?”