Syria’s armed opposition attempted to draw international focus on the government’s punishing air strikes by threatening to takeover Damascus and Aleppo airports — apparently being used by the Air Force for the attacks.
The London based pan-Arab daily Asher Al-Awsat quoted the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) as saying commercial airlines should suspend operations in Damascus and Aleppo, within the next 72-hours starting from Saturday.
“The criminal regime of Syria has begun to use civilian airports for take-off and landing of warplanes,” said the FSA.
However, the FSA’s threat may violate international law, which prohibits attacks on civilian airports. Apart from grabbing the headlines, it is unlikely that the opposition has the capacity to overrun the two heavily defended airports, say analysts.
Nevertheless, some airlines, including Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Royal Jordanian Airlines have suspended flights to Damascus, ahead of the warning.
Jolted by the damage caused by the government’s helicopters and fighter jets, the opposition attacked Aleppo’s air base of Rasm al-Abboud. State media is reporting that the strike had been foiled.
The duel continued to occupy international diplomatic space. Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Russia — a country that has consistently opposed infringement of Syrian national sovereignty — again forewarned that the Security Council does not have the right to support a revolution or foreign intervention.
He said any plan seeking the withdrawal of the troops while it was under fire was either untenable or naïve. The demand for President Bashar Al-Assad to step down as a precondition to resolve the crisis was also completely unrealistic, he observed.
“There are different attitudes towards the Syrian regime. But while fighting in the streets continues, it is absolutely unrealistic to say that the only way out is for one side to unilaterally capitulate. It is not a matter of ideology; we don’t support any political figures in Syria. We just reason from what is realistic,” said Mr. Lavrov during his address to the students of the Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs.
With no end to fighting, Lakhdar Brahimi, veteran diplomat, is holding talks later on Saturday at the U.N. headquarters in New York. Mr. Brahimi — the new U.N. envoy on Syria — will formally assume office following on Tuesday in the presence of the U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon and outgoing representative, Kofi Annan.
Mr. Brahimi is soon expected to visit Damascus and Cairo for talks with Arab League officials, said his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.
The Syrian conflict continues to heighten discord between Syria and neighbouring Turkey. Syrian television quoted deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad as saying that Turkey is playing “a destructive role in Syria by training terrorists and providing passage for al-Qaeda into Syria”.
He asserted that Turkey should be listed as state sponsor of terrorism if it does not change its policy.
Keywords: Syrian uprising