Russia says Syria on the brink of a civil war: ‘catastrophic civil war’ will follow if peace plan fails

Friday, April 20, 2012
By Paul Martin
April 20, 2012

DAMASCUS – Syria faces a catastrophic civil war if both sides in the crisis that has gripped the country for over a year fail to take advantage of the current fragile ceasefire there, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday. “A very important event in the developments in the country has come about,” the ministry said in a statement on its website. “The issue in Syria now is the choice between a transition towards peaceful, nationwide talks or a descent into civil war.” United Nations envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan for Syria stipulated the start of a ceasefire on April 12 in a bid to stop the violence the UN says has so far claimed around 9,000 lives. But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that he had seen “troubling” evidence of ceasefire violations by both government troops and rebel forces. He also said Syria had failed to comply with its obligations under Annan’s peace plan to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from urban areas. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday the ceasefire was holding, despite “violations and provocations” but warned of a “new circle of violence” in the event of its breakdown. Foreign ministers from the Friends of Syria coalition, which Russia is not part of, met in Paris on Thursday evening. They said later in a statement that the ceasefire and Anna’s peace plan were the “last hope” of avoiding civil war in Syria. French President Nikolas Sarkozy accused Assad before the meeting of seeking to wipe the rebel city of Homs “off the map.” The Friends of Syria group, which includes the United States and the United Kingdom, suggested earlier this month arming Syrian rebels, a proposal that Russia said would merely prolong the conflict. Moscow has twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions over what it called pro-rebel bias since the start of an uprising against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, but gave its full backing to Annan’s peace plan. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also criticized earlier this month Assad’s handling of the uprising against his rule and said Syria needed to be “more decisive” to meet its commitments to Annan’s peace plan. –RIA Novosti

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