Russia calls for increasing the number of foreign observers in Syria amid an ongoing standoff between the Syrian government and the opposition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday.
“I would speak for increasing rather than reducing the number of observers,” Lavrov said, commenting on the decision by some Arab countries to recall their representatives from the Arab League mission currently working in Syria.
Lavrov said this decision, made simultaneously with the decision to extend the mission’s work in Syria for another month, raised questions.
The minister also said Russia would like to get acquainted with a report prepared by the mission’s observers, arguing that apparently some of the report’s information was missing in a document, which Arab League foreign ministers are expected to submit to the UN Security Council early next week.
“Of course, we’ll hear their proposals but we would like to see the report itself,” Lavrov said.
The Arab League has put forward a plan calling for a national unity government to be created in Syria within two months to implement a peaceful handover of power from embattled President Bashar al-Assad to his deputy.
Russia has been one of al-Assad’s staunchest supporters during the more than ten-month uprising against his regime. Moscow has proposed its own draft UN resolution on Syria, but Western members of the Security Council have criticized it as too soft.
Russia has also spoken out against unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria by the European Union and the United States last year. On Wednesday, Lavrov again said Moscow would stonewall attempts to gain UN approval for the sanctions.
Syria is currently under several sets of international sanctions for its brutal crackdown on protestors, which claimed the lives of some 5,000 people, according to UN estimates.
Damascus has rejected international criticism of its human rights record during the conflict and says some 2,000 police and members of the security forces have been killed by “terrorists and extremists.”