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Arab League must play “greater” role in convincing Russia and China to abandon al-Assad – Source | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Washington/Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – With Russia and China continuing to oppose the issuance of any UN Security Council resolution condemning the al-Assad regime for the violence it is carrying out against unarmed Syrian protesters, a US State Department source – speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity – said “the time has come for the Arabs to exert greater pressure” on Russia and China. The US State Department source called on the Arab League to send a “ministerial” delegation to Moscow and Beijing to convince the Russians and Chinese to withdraw their threat to veto any UN Security Council resolution condemning – and sanctioning – the al-Assad regime, with the US official even proposing that perhaps Arab leaders and heads-of-state should personally undertake this diplomatic mission.

The US source also told Asharq Al-Awsat “the Russians accuse us [the US] of being immoral, and we, of course, know who is moral and who is immoral [in this case]. Under such circumstances, it has become the moral duty of Arab states to move forward and take effective steps.”

He added “it is no secret that we [the US administration] don’t know what precisely we will do in the face of the intransigence on the part of the Russians and Chinese…it is also no secret that there are other factors which complicate our communication with these countries. With all respect to the situation in Syria, are relations with Russia and China are extremely complicated…and our hands are perhaps, somewhat tied as a result of this.”

The US State Department source referenced the recent tension that was caused by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments about corruption in the Russian elections, which greatly angered Russian president Vladimir Putin. As for China, the US official pointed to the naval tensions between Washington and Beijing, as well as the “complications in our economic relations.”

He added “the Arab League can do, at the very least, two things. Firstly, it can do what it did in Libya, when it gave the green light for intervention. As we know, this prompted us to take action via NATO forces, and so we neutralized the Russian and Chinese opposition. Secondly, the Arab states can directly confront Russia and China’s opposition [to a UN Security Council resolution on Syria].”

The US State Department official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, also said that the Arab League can send a diplomatic delegation “at the highest level” to Moscow and Beijing in order to “convince” Russia and China, adding “it would be up to the Arab League to decide this, not us.”

Responding to the statement made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday that the West is taking an “immoral” stance on Syria by raising pressure on the al-Assad government, whilst turning a blind eye to the violent actions committed by the militants, the US State Department source stressed that “Russia should be the last one to talk about morality”. He also made reference to the response given by US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland to the Russian Foreign Minister’s comments. Nuland had said “we think it’s the al-Assad regime that is immoral in the violence it is perpetrating on its own people…and frankly, we think it is past time for the UN Security Council to speak up.”

She added “the silence of the [UN] Security Council is, frankly, unconscionable in the face of the al-Assad regime’s violence and we are calling on our partners on the [UN] Security Council to be willing to take action and speak out for the innocents in Syria who are suffering at the hands of the regime – including Russia.”

Nuland told reporters “the chorus of countries that are appealing to Russia, to China, to some of the other countries on the [UN] Security Council that were reluctant before, is growing and particularly those countries in the Arab League who would like the UN support for the program they’ve put forward.”

She added “Frankly, it’s very hard for us to understand why any country on the [UN] Security Council wouldn’t want to support the call of the Syrian opposition, the call of the Arab League, the call of all of us, for independent monitors and for the return of a free press, which are key components that we’d like to see the UN Security Council call for.”

In terms of the situation within the Arab League, Asharq Al-Awsat learnt that the forthcoming Arab League meeting of foreign ministers which is expected to take place on Saturday will discuss all the recent developments in the Syrian crisis, as well as the final decision of the al-Assad regime to the Arab League protocol and the Iraqi initiative, to reach a solution to the Syrian crisis.