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Syrai: Russia urges Syrian cooperation with Annan, GCC closes embassies


Russia is pressing Syrian President Bashar Assad to fully cooperate with the mission of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

Speaking ahead of a video conference Annan was to hold with the UN in New York on Friday about his mission to find a settlement to the crisis, Lavrov also said all the UN Security Council members had a duty to support his efforts.

"We are working with Kofi Annan on a day-to-day basis and are sending relevant signals to Damascus to ensure full cooperation with his mission by the Syrian leadership," Lavrov told a televised news conference.

He added: "We are expecting all members of the Security Council to support his efforts."

"This means that not only China and us should send Damascus a signal to fully cooperate with Kofi Annan's mission, but other Security Council members should also do their job and demand the opposition not provoke an escalation of the situation."

The UN Security Council should also urge the Syrian opposition to "fully cooperate with Kofi Annan and constructively respond to the proposals which it (his mission) puts forward," he added.

The former UN secretary general – who met with Assad in Damascus earlier this month – has said his talks were centered on the need for an immediate halt to the violence and killings, as well as access to humanitarian organizations and further dialogue.

Russia was also critical of repeated calls by Western powers for Assad to step down, saying they were contrary to the aims of restoring peace in Syria.

"The Syrian people should determine who will lead their country and so the opinion of some of our foreign partners will hardly foster a solution," Mikhail Bogdanov, a deputy foreign minister, told a news conference.

He said declarations from other countries about Assad's illegitimacy and calls for him to step down "are counterproductive because they send the opposition a false signal that there is no sense in entering dialogue."

GCC closes Syrian embassies

United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar followed in the footsteps of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the other two members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), by announcing the closure of Syrian embassies, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported late on Thursday.

SPA quoted GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani as saying in a statement that the move demonstrated a rejection of "the Syrian regime's continuing killing and tormenting of the unarmed Syrian people, its insistence on the military option and ignoring all efforts for a way out of the tragic situation lived by the brotherly Syrian people."

Zayani called on the international community to "take firm and quick measures to stop the killings, torture, and blatant violation of the dignity of the Syrian people and its legitimate rights," SPA said.

The support of Gulf states, all autocratic monarchies, for the Syrian uprising has irked sections of Syria's opposition who fear the GCC is only interested in turning the country into a proxy battleground against regional rival Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are so far the only two states that have openly called for arming Syrian rebels, while other Arab and Western nations oppose the move.

The GCC's vociferous support for the Syrian uprising is undermined by the continued violent suppression of a similar pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia also cracked down on internal protests last week, which it referred to as an "act of terrorism," resulting in the death of at least two people, according to media reports.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)

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