U.S. says Russia hampering situation in Syria
The U.S. State Department has once again blamed Russia for hindering the situation in Syria, RIA Novosti reported.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made the statement during a briefing in answer to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's earlier statement that the West is aiding the opposition in order to drag out an armed battle in Syria.
"Well, there's no question that we are endeavoring, through our support to the opposition, to hasten the day when the violence ends, when Assad leaves power and when a democratic transition can begin," Nuland said, adding: "That said, as you know, we tried very hard repeatedly -- three times, in fact -- through the U.N. Security Council to work with Russia to put some teeth behind the U.N. efforts and Kofi Annan's effort to get compliance with his six-point plan. We wanted very much for there to be a penalty, a sanctions penalty in particular, if those six points were not implemented. And Russia, again, vetoed. So you know, I would ask the question who is doing the most now to try to hasten the day?
The 15-member Security Council approved in April the establishment of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) with 300 unarmed military observers, to oversee a ceasefire in Syria and monitor the implementation of UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan.
The mandate of the mission has been extended until August 19 despite the fact that most of the mission's activities have been suspended since June 16 due to escalating violence in the country.
Nuland said the situation in Syria would be discussed in Moscow by Undersecretary Wendy Sherman during her visit, though according to the agenda, the sides would discuss the situation in Iran.
"Well, first let me say that Undersecretary Sherman's primary purpose on her stop in Russia is to work with the Russians on the P-5 plus one process vis-a-vis Iran, which she is the lead American on. And she'll be meeting her counterparts there. Obviously Syria is going to come up. She will say what [U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] has been saying to Lavrov, what we've been saying at all levels, which is that the Russians themselves have expressed to us, have expressed internationally, grave concerns about this turning into a civil war, turning into a proxy war, spilling beyond borders," Nuland said.
The Syrian conflict has claimed between 14,000 and 20,000 lives since March 2011, according to estimates by various opposition groups and the UN. The West is pushing for Assad's ouster, while Russia and China are trying to prevent outside interference in the country, claiming the Assad regime and the opposition are both to blame for the bloodshed.
"And we have those exact same concerns. But not allowing the UN to work, not allowing real teeth behind efforts that we've all agreed to -- that we need a transitional structure as the P-5 agreed in Geneva, that we actually need the Kofi Annan plan to have enforcement mechanisms -- is not helping and is not contributing to stopping the violence and containing this crisis so that we can move on and we can rebuild Syria," Nuland added.
Most recently, after regaining control of Damascus, the Syrian Army has continued a large-scale offensive to force rebels out of the northern city of Aleppo, on the border with Turkey.
The government troops on Monday stormed the western neighborhood of Aleppo in a battle that could decide the future of the armed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.