Russia urges Syria to give observers maximum freedom
Russia urged its ally Syria on Wednesday to provide as much freedom as possible for observers from the Arab League that began their first inspections of flashpoint cities this week.
"We constantly work with the Syrian leadership calling on it to fully cooperate with observers from the Arab League and to create work conditions that are as comfortable and free as possible," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference with his Egyptian counterpart.
But Lavrov added that Russia was "concerned" by calls he said were being made from some nations urging the Syrian opposition not to treat the mission as a serious attempt to establish facts on the ground.
"Such calls play an extremely harmful role -- a provocative role," Lavrov said.
Russia strongly opposes Western intervention in the crisis and continues to resist a UN Security Council arms embargo against Syria, which has been its military client since Soviet times.
Moscow has proposed its own watered-down resolution that omits the arms embargo and criticises both President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the opposition for the use of force.
The United States has urged Russia to drop the measure and back a much tougher version drafted by Washington and several European states.
Lavrov said Russia may be able to abandon the resolution should the observers' visit lead to direct talks.
"If the Arab League mission helps calm the situation and create conditions for exclusive dialogue involving all Syrians... and if this happens thanks to the mission, then we would only be glad that the adoption of a resolution will not be required," he said.
© 2011 AFP