The United States hopes Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will advise Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign from his post, U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Lavrov and Russian Foreign Intelligence Service head Mikhail Fradkov will visit Syria on Tuesday and meet with President al-Assad on instructions from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
“Our hope and expectation is that Foreign Minister Lavrov will use this opportunity to make absolutely clear to the Assad regime how isolated it is and to encourage Assad and his people to make use of the Arab League plan and provide for a transition and step away,” Nuland told a daily press briefing.
Russia and China used their veto right at the UN Security Council on February 4 to block a new Morocco-submitted draft resolution on Syria, backed by the Arab League and Western nations, to prevent the repetition of “the Libyan scenario.”
The Russo-Chinese veto sparked a furious backlash from Western diplomats over the weekend, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denouncing it as a “travesty,” while U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said she was “disgusted” by the veto.
Lavrov said on Monday that the UN Security Council was too hasty in putting the new Syria resolution to a vote, apparently meaning that the result of the vote could have been different if the issue had been put to vote a few days later.
At least 5,400 people have been killed in the Syrian government's 11-month crackdown on protesters, according to the UN. Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda and say more than 2,000 soldiers and police have been killed.