Syria conflict: Russia's Vladimir Putin stands firm

 
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and French President Francois Hollande speak during a news conference at Elysee Palace on June 1, 2012 in Paris, France Vladimir Putin (L) spoke after a meeting with France's President Francois Hollande

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has resisted diplomatic pressure from Western nations to support tougher action against Syria's government.

Mr Putin, an ally of Syria, called for more time to be given to the peace plan of envoy Kofi Annan.

The US and UK have called on Moscow to strengthen its condemnation of the Syrian regime since last week's massacre in Houla, where 108 died.

Earlier, Moscow opposed a UN Human Rights Council resolution on Syria.

In an emergency session on Friday, the council condemned Syria over the Houla massacre and called for an investigation.

But Russia voted against the US-backed resolution, arguing that it was "unbalanced".

Meanwhile, a US government website published satellite images apparently showing a mass grave in the Houla area.

'Intolerable'

Correspondents say Mr Putin's latest remarks, made after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande, highlight the divisions between Moscow and Paris towards the conflict in Syria.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr Hollande called for further pressure and sanctions, and said the only solution was for President Bashar al-Assad to resign.

Houla massacre

Map locator
  • Residents of Taldou village in the Houla region say that after an anti-government protest on 25 May, the army began an 18-hour bombardment
  • Some accounts say rebel fighters attacked the military position from where shellfire was coming
  • Unconfirmed reports say pro-government shabiha militia entered Taldou, killing people at home, shooting them in the head or cutting their throats
  • UN observers say at least 108 people died, including 49 children and 34 women. No more than 20 appeared to have been killed by shellfire
  • A government investigation blames armed groups seeking to trigger foreign military intervention

He said Mr Assad's regime had conducted itself in an "unacceptable, intolerable way" and had committed acts that disqualified it from power.

"There is no possible exit from this situation except with the departure of Bashar Assad," he said.

Mr Putin, however, questioned calls for the Syrian president to quit.

"Why are we thinking that if we push the current leadership from power, then tomorrow general wellbeing will begin there," Mr Putin said.

"What is happening in Libya? What is happening in Iraq? Has it become safer there? We propose to act in an accurate, balanced manner at least in Syria."

He said the most important thing was to prevent the worst-case scenario of civil war.

There have been calls for more action to be taken in Syria to stop the violence, which has continued despite Mr Annan's six-point peace plan.

Speaking in Oslo on Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hit out at Russia saying she did not believe it was acting impartially.

"We know there has been a very consistent arms trade, even during the past year, coming from Russia to Syria. We also believe the continuous supply of arms from Russia has strengthened the Assad regime," she told a news conference.

On Thursday, Western officials confirmed a report that a Russian cargo ship had delivered heavy weapons to the Syrian port of Tartus last weekend.

Mr Putin has insisted that Russia was not supplying Syria with arms "that could be used in a civilian conflict".

Factory worker deaths

Earlier, the UN Human Rights Council said it wanted investigators to identify the perpetrators of the killings in Houla.

Navi Pillay's representative: "Those who order, help or fail to stop attacks on civilians are individually criminally liable for their actions"

In the vote, 41 members voted in favour of the US-backed resolution condemning Syria, while Russia, China and Cuba voted against it. Two other countries abstained and one was absent.

Residents of the village of Taldou, in Houla, said militiamen had been sent in early last Saturday after the Syrian army unleashed a barrage of heavy weapons late on Friday in response to a local anti-government protest.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said the killings in Houla may amount to crimes against humanity.

She said those who ordered attacks were "individually criminally liable", and urged the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move opposed by Russia and China.

As Syria is not a state party to the ICC the court has no jurisdiction to indict its citizens without a Security Council referral.

Meanwhile, opposition activists said there had been another mass killing of civilians by pro-government militiamen.

Thirteen factory workers were forced off a bus and executed on Thursday in al-Buwaida al-Sharqiya, near the western town of Qusair, they said.

Several videos posted online showed bodies with severe wounds to the head and stomach, consistent with being shot at close range.

 

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  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 292.

    It's hard to know who to believe regarding Syria. It wouldn't be the first time our (Western) governments and media have misrepresented the facts. For all its alleged faults, the Assad regime is tolerant towards religious minorities, including Christians. It has also managed to keep the peace with Israel, despite the occasional tiff. Perhaps we should heed the idiom, "better the devil you know..."

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 276.

    I'm sure that since Assad claims innocence then he would welcome an investigative team of 10 police from each of the UN members. 1930 people who could freely investigate who has committed these vile crimes. Unless, of course, he and his allies are guilty?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 253.

    Arguably the UN would be dysfunctional without the permanent member vetoes. It is certainly not fit for purpose with this system. It was impotent to prevent war crimes in Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, etc. It is a waste of space and should be abandoned.

  • Comment number 136.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 81.

    In my opinion the Syrians should sort this out themselves. It is their affair and no one else's. Intervening in it will just cause more problems.

 

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