Syria's foreign minister told Moscow Tuesday Damascus has started withdrawing troops in line with Kofi Annan's peace plan but Russia said the regime should implement the initiative more decisively.
The rare visit by the veteran Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to Moscow coincided with a deadline under the Annan plan for Syria to withdraw forces from protest cities amid Western worries the scheme is in tatters.
"I told my Russian colleague of the steps Syria is taking to show its goodwill for the implementation of the Annan plan," Muallem said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"We have already withdrawn military units from different Syrian provinces," without giving further details on the location. Muallem also said Syria freed some prisoners arrested for participating in anti-government riots, again without specifics.
He added that a ceasefire should begin "simultaneously" with the arrival of international observers. Damascus had already made clear it could only stick to the Annan plan if it received written guarantees from the rebels.
With tensions riding high between Damascus and Ankara after Syrian forces fired shots into a refugee camp across the Turkish border, Muallem accused Turkey of undermining the Annan plan by helping the rebels.
"Turkey... supports illegal Syrian militant groups, supplies them with weapons... and lets them illegally cross into Syria," Muallem said. "How can we (fulfill the plan) if there are still illegal arms deliveries and moving of militants from Turkey?"
Lavrov however made clear said that Syria should be more decisive in fulfilling the plan of U.N.-Arab League envoy Annan, which most notably calls on Syria to pull out government forces and weaponry from cities hit by protests.
"We believe their actions could have been more active, more decisive when it comes to the implementation of the plan," Lavrov said at a joint news conference with Muallem.
He said however that Muallem had informed him that Damascus was starting to implement the key conditions of the plan concerning the withdrawal of weaponry and troops.
The White House had earlier said there was "no sign" that the government of President Bashar Assad was sticking by the Annan peace plan after signing on to the deal last week.
"An immediate cessation of fire is the number one task," said Lavrov. "We urgently call on our Syrian colleagues to strictly implement all their obligations in accordance with the Kofi Annan plan," Lavrov said.
Russia has repeatedly condemned the West for taking what it says is a one-sided approach in the conflict but has in recent weeks shown signs of growing exasperation with the intransigence of the Assad regime.
Assad's secular regime has been able until now to count on Moscow as a friend, in a long standing alliance that goes back to warm relations between the Soviet Union and his predecessor and father Hafez Assad.
Moscow says its position is objective and gives it unmatched influence over Damascus, although rights activists have accused Russia of giving a green light to violence that has left more than 9,000 dead according to the U.N.
"We consistently work towards this goal (democracy in Syria) with the Syrian government without any sort of hidden agenda, wishing the peace and flourishing of the Syrian nation," said Lavrov.
"The most urgent task right now is not to allow new casualties from any sides," he added.
|Copyright © 2012 Naharnet.com. All Rights Reserved.||http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/36266|