Lavrov: U.S. placing all bets on victory of armed coalition

Russia and China have rejected the U.S. move to recognise the Syrian opposition, mostly based abroad, and reiterated that the prolonged crisis can be resolved only by Syrians themselves, based on an inclusive internal dialogue.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday he was “surprised” by President Barack Obama’s recognition of the recently re-configured opposition. He pointed out that Mr. Obama’s assertion meant that the Americans were still hoping for a military solution by placing “all its bets on an armed victory of the National Coalition”.

Mr. Lavrov stressed that it was not by following a partisan approach but only by pursuing the Geneva accord, which had recommended an internationally backed intra-Syrian dialogue, that an amicable Syrian political transition can be achieved. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the former U.N. negotiator on Syria, Kofi Annan, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi, the U.S. Secretary of State as well as the Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, and Iraq had all attended the Geneva meeting in June.

The Geneva accord had formally endorsed a plan that would allow the participation of members of the government of President Bashar al-Assad in a broad national coalition that would steer the transition. Mr. Annan had gone out of his way then to stress that the transitional government “could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent”. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had also endorsed the position that “settlement on the Syrian issue can only be Syrian-led and acceptable to relevant parties in Syria”.

On Wednesday, Mr. Lavrov’s observations seemed to suggest that differences between Moscow and Washington over Syria may have widened.

He said Mr. Obama’s recognition of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces contradicted the “agreements stipulated by the Geneva communiqué, which presume the starting of a common Syrian dialogue”.

In an interview with the with ABC television, Mr. Obama had said “we have a well-organised-enough coalition — opposition coalition that is representative — that we can recognise them as the legitimate representative of Syrian people”. The Chinese position was also well-aligned with that of Russia.

“Syria’s future and destiny should be decided by the Syrian people on their own,” said Hong Lei at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Larger plan

Analysts point out that the shift in the American position is part of a larger plan to arm the Syrian opposition that is not aligned with al-Qaeda.

The Independent reported that a west-led coalition had drawn up a plan “to provide military training to the Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime and support them with air and naval power”.

The daily said General Sir David Richards, head of the British armed forces had “hosted a confidential meeting in London a few weeks ago attended by the military chiefs of France, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE, and a three-star American general, in which the strategy was discussed at length”. Turkey could be one possible venue where camps can be established to impart the training.

According to Le Figaro, French military advisers have met opposition groups in Lebanon, across the Syrian border.

While western media is replete with reports about preparations for a “final push” to topple the Assad government, there is a counterview that the Russians are also quietly supplying the Syrian forces with advanced weaponry. Mashregh, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard media outlet, reported that Russia has delivered to Syria, the first consignment of the powerful Iskander missiles, which are hard to destroy in mid-air because of their high supersonic speeds.

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