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Russia Blames Syrian Regime For Aggravating Crisis

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that the mistakes made by the Syrian regime in handling the current uprising had contributed immensely in aggravating the crisis in the Middle East nation.

"We believe that the Syrian leadership responded incorrectly to the very first manifestations of the peaceful protests. The Syrian leadership - despite the numerous promises it has made in response to our calls - is making a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately this is why the conflict is so acute," Lavrov told Kommersant FM radio in a pre-recorded interview.

Later, he told reporters after a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart that Moscow was ready to back a plan proposed by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League special envoy on Syria, last month to resolve the crisis if certain conditions were met.

"We are ready to support Kofi Annan's mission and proposals that he has passed to the Syrian side in the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) as a resolution, not even as a statement. Obviously, those proposals should first be published," Lavrov said.

"The Security Council must approve these not as an ultimatum but take into consideration the ongoing work and approve them as the basis for Kofi Annan's efforts aimed at achieving reconciliation between all Syrians on all essential questions," he added.

Earlier this week, Annan said he was sending a team to Syria over the weekend to follow up the proposals he had put before the regime while on a visit to Damascus last week. The Syrian government has said that it was prepared to co-operate with Annan while continuing to fight "terrorism."

Although details of the plan has not been published, it is believed to include an immediate ceasefire by both sides, access for humanitarian aid and establishing credibility as well as confidence for the political process when it is initiated.

Lavrov's latest remarks indicate a distinct shift in Russia's stand on Syria. A day earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow supported calls for enforcing a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire in violence-hit Syria.

Following a meting between Lavrov and chief of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Moscow, the Ministry issued a statement calling on the Syrian government "and all armed groups who oppose it" to agree to proposed ceasefires "without delay."

Syria has been witnessing a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad whose government continues to use heavy artillery and armed troops to put down the unrest. According to the United Nations, more than 8,000 people have been killed since the unrest began a year ago.

The Assad regime, however, blames "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign mercenaries for the violence. It claims that about 1,350 security personnel have died in the violence and puts the number of civilians killed so far below 2,500.

So far, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) has been divided over its response to the Syrian crisis. China and Russia, had vetoed a West-backed resolution endorsing an Arab League plan for Syria when it was put to vote at the UNSC on February 4. Incidentally, the two nations had jointly vetoed a Western resolution condemning repression in Syria in October.

Despite opposition from China and Russia at the U.N. to take unified actions against the Syrian regime, the European Union, the United States and Turkey have imposed several rounds of sanctions on the Arab country. They have also indicated plans to tighten the measures if the crisis is not resolved quickly.

by RTT Staff Writer

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