Russia says it will seek Syria compromise

Demonstrators protest against President Bashar Assad in Kafr nobil Syria, Feb. 15, 2012. UPI..
1 of 2 | Demonstrators protest against President Bashar Assad in Kafr nobil Syria, Feb. 15, 2012. UPI.. | License Photo

DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Russia said it's willing to seek a compromise with U.N. member states to "resolve the Syrian crisis."

RIA Novosti, which reported the comment, which came a day after the U.N. condemned the Syrian government, did not elaborate on the elements of a possible compromise.


"We are ready to seek a compromise formula to resolve the Syrian crisis on the basis of the U.N.," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Friday, referring to the U.N. resolution approved Thursday. "But the interests of the Syrian people, peace and security in the whole region must be paramount."

Russia -- along with China, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and other countries -- voted against the non-binding U.N. General Assembly resolution, criticizing it as unwarranted interference in Syria's internal politics. The resolution condemned the violent crackdown on the nearly yearlong uprising by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The resolution, approved 137-12 with 17 abstentions, called for Assad's resignation under an Arab League proposal.


Lukashevich said the resolution was nearly identical to a draft U.N. Security Council resolution Russia and China had vetoed Feb. 4.

Syria tried to block the vote on the latest resolution and severely criticized its sponsors, including the Arab League, which suspended Syria's participation in November 2011 because of the crackdown.

Syria followed the U.N. rebuke by pounding the city of Homs for a 14th day Friday as China sent an envoy to Damascus and Venezuela shipped oil to the regime, witnesses said.

Tanks, heavy artillery, rockets and mortars barraged residential areas of Homs, a center of the resistance in western Syria, shortly after dawn, residents said.

Rockets and tank shells pummeled Homs' embattled Baba Amr neighborhood, activists said.

No casualties were immediately reported but at least 22 people were killed in the flashpoint cities of Hama and Daraa Thursday, activist groups said.

Assad's regime arrested a prominent activist journalist Thursday along with a well-known blogger and more than a dozen other journalists and activists, opposition groups said.

The arrests of Mazen Darwish, who heads the Syrian Center for Media and Free Expression in Damascus, and blogger Razan Ghazzawi, a symbol of the uprising, prompted press-freedom organization Reporters Without Borders to call for their immediate release.


No information was immediately available about the reasons for their arrests.

Darwish and Ghazzawi have been detained by police before, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Syrian-American Ghazzawi has written her Razaniyyat blog since 2009. Her @RedRazan Twitter feed is followed by an estimated 6,700 people, a United Press International review indicated. She posted her last blog entry and Twitter feed Monday, the review indicated.

The U.N. resolution calls for Assad to give up power to a vice president, for opposition and government representatives to negotiate, and for Syria to form a new government.

"Today the U.N. General Assembly sent a clear message to the people of Syria: The world is with you," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said in a statement. "Bashar Assad has never been more isolated."

Despite voting against the resolution, China Thursday called on Damascus "to seriously heed the people's legitimate desire for reform and development" and said Beijing hoped "the Syrian issue will be resolved within the framework of the league through political and peaceful means."

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun arrived in Syria Friday for talks with regime leaders "and relevant parties including leaders of the opposition," China Daily reported.


"We condemn all acts of violence against innocent civilians and urge the government and all political factions of Syria to immediately and fully end all violence, and quickly restore stability and the normal social order," he said before leaving Beijing.

Separately, a Venezuelan oil tanker was sent to Syria, raising suspicions Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sought to undercut Western sanctions by providing fuel to Assad forces, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The 47-ton Negra Hipolita was to arrive in the port of Baniyas Wednesday, shipping records on the Web site Marinetraffic indicate. Baniyas is home of one of the largest oil refineries in Syria.

A spokesman for Venezuelan oil monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela SA declined comment Thursday, the Journal said. An oil ministry spokesman had no immediate comment.

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