Monday, June 20, 2011

Medvedev on Syria and UN resolutions

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev gave an interview with the Financial Times where he touched on Syria and the disturbances there.
FT: What about Syria?

DM: Syria is facing a very difficult choice. I feel sorry for president al-Assad who is in a very difficult situation now. We met when I visited Syria. President al-Assad has visited Russia several times during my political tenure. It seems to me that he wants political change in his country, he wants reforms. At the same time, he has been somewhat late to launch them, and this has caused casualties that could have been avoided and this is, to a large extent, on the head of those in power. At the same time, I realise that if the opposition resorts to force and opens fire on the police, any state has to take defensive measures. In this respect, he has a very hard choice to make. I have called him and told him personally that I counted very much that he would be consistent in his reforms, that the end of the state of emergency would be followed by normal elections and that there will be a dialogue with all political forces. It seems to me that he strives for this, but he is in a difficult situation at the same time. However, what I am not ready to support is a dead-ringer for Resolution 1973 on Libya, because I am firmly convinced that a good resolution was turned into a scrap of paper to cover up a pointless military operation. In any case, if my counterparts had asked me then to abstain at the least so that they could bombs various targets in Libya, I would have certainly issued different instructions to our diplomats in the United Nations.

However, we proceed from the premise that resolutions should be interpreted literally, rather than broadly. If the resolution mentions no-fly zones, there must be no-fly zones and nothing more. However, nobody flies there now save for NATO warplanes. Only they fly there and only they drop bombs there. OK, Qaddafi’s planes used to fly there, so at least there was an excuse there. This by no means changes my attitude to what he did and to the fact that I, together with the other G8 leaders, supported the joint declaration on Libya issued in Deauville recently. However, getting back to Syria, I would very much not like a Syrian resolution to be pulled off in a similar manner. For this reason, the Syrian resolution will not be like that. Russia shall use its right to veto it as a permanent UN Security Council member. However, other calls and statements on Syria, including those via UNSC, are possible.

FT: Thus, if the resolution does not threaten sanctions or military action, you would support it, would you?

DM: You know, unfortunately, my partners have learnt to interpret Security Council resolutions very broadly of late. I remember how things were under George W. Bush. There were no resolutions, nobody would ask for them, but there was the notorious military action in Iraq. However, the world has changed. Everybody knows that it is not the done thing to do that without a Security Council resolution. So, relevant resolutions appear and are interpreted in a broad manner, which is wrong. Therefore, I can tell you frankly that the resolution may state one thing but the resulting actions may be quite different. For instance, the resolution may state that we denounce violence, say, in Syria, and then it will be followed by air attacks. We will be told the resolution reads ‘denounce violence’, so some of the signatories have denounced the violence by dispatching a number of bombers. In any event, I do not want this to lie on my conscience.
We'll see what happens in Syria. It looks like there will not be a UN resolution though.

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