Russia on Monday blamed both government forces and rebels for this weekend's massacre of 108 people, one third of them children, in the Syrian town of Houla.
"There can be no doubt that the authorities used artillery and tanks. [But] guilt should be apportioned objectively. It takes two to tango," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his UK counterpart William Hague in Moscow.
He also said "dozens of players" were involved in the current violence in Syria.
The U.N. Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent veto-wielding member, on Sunday unanimously condemned the Syrian authorities over the "outrageous attack."
Russia wanted a probe into the Houla killings, Lavrov said adding that "we need to understand how this happened to make sure it will never be repeated."
Russia's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alexander Pankin told reports ahead of Hague's visit that Moscow did not rule out that the killings in Houla were a "provocation" carried out by rebel forces ahead of a visit by U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan to Syria. He also refused to rule out the participation of foreign special forces in the attack.
The Kremlin has opposed attempts to impose U.N. sanctions on its ally, Syria, where Russia maintains its only foreign military base, over what Western powers say is the brutal suppression of a 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow, which continues to arm Damascus, says proposed U.N. resolutions on the violence-stricken country betray a pro-rebel bias.
Russia has, however, given its full backing to Annan's faltering six-point peace plan for Syria and Lavrov reiterated on Monday that Damascus needed to show more decisiveness to end the violence in the Middle East country.
Hague said UK accepted that rebel forces bore responsibility for some of the violence. "We are not arguing that all violence in Syria is the responsibility of the Assad regime, although it has the primary responsibility for such violence," he was quoted by Russia's official media as saying.
Meanwhile, Annan arrived in Damascus on Monday for talks on implementing his six-point peace plan. On arrival in the Syrian capital, he called on "every individual with a gun" to lay down their arms. "I have come to Syria at a critical moment in this crisis. I am personally shocked and horrified by the tragic incident in Houla," the former U.N. Secretary-General said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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