U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said she hoped Russia’s meeting with the Arab League over the coming weekend would help bring Moscow on board over the Syria conflict.
Calling efforts with Russia “intense,” Ms. Clinton told reporters at the U.S. State Department that she had talked with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week “about our hope that Russia will play a constructive role in ending the bloodshed and working toward a political transition in Syria.” She said she would follow up on Monday in New York, when she will see Mr. Lavrov at a high-level discussion in the UN Security Council about developments since the Arab Spring.
Russia has refused to back efforts by western powers to adopt a UN resolution that would call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to allow humanitarian aid into that country and step aside for a transitional government — a proposal backed by the Arab League. China has also opposed the resolution, but last week appeared to crack open the door somewhat toward changing its position.
More than 7,500 people have died in the conflict that started a year ago, with calls for reform of the Syrian regime. On Friday alone, at least 60 people were killed, activists said, on the eve of a peace mission to Damascus by the United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The US, Britain, France, Morocco and other countries launched another attempt this week to put through a “narrower” resolution in the Security Council, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
“We are frankly not overly optimistic that an agreed text will be reached in the future,” she said.
Earlier Friday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the draft was “unbalanced” and lacked “simultaneous” appeals to both sides to stop the violence.
Ms. Nuland said that Arab League leaders are concerned enough about the failure of Russia and China to back their efforts that they are beginning to speak openly about “the broader implications for their relations with Russia, their relations with China.” Ms. Nuland said that Syria was the major topic in all US discussions with Russia right now.
“This is now topic one, two and three in our conversation with Moscow,” Ms. Nuland said. “Our concern is for the Syrian people, and it is time for Russia to stand with them.” In a phone call on Friday, Russia’s President-elect Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to continue discussions on “areas where the United States and Russia have differed,” including Syria and missile defence, according to a White House statement.