Peace mediator seeks stepped-up Russian role on Syria: envoys

Reuters News

11/6/2012 11:58:07 AM - Reuters News

By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N.-Arab League mediator in Syria's civil war, Lakhdar Brahimi, has urged Russia to be more "pro-active" in resolving the 19-month-old conflict, diplomats said on Tuesday, citing the U.N. political affairs chief.

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs, made the remarks at a closed-door session of the 15-nation Security Council on Syria, diplomats inside the council chamber told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"In his meeting with (Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov, Brahimi encouraged Russia to take a more 'pro-active' role in resolving the Syria crisis," a diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin declined to comment to reporters when asked about Feltman's comments.

Russia has accused Western powers of preparing a Libya-style military intervention in Syria that would lead to the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is Moscow's ally and a top buyer of Russian arms. It has vowed to prevent that.

Some 32,000 people have died in Syria's conflict.

Feltman also told the council he had received credible reports of the use of cluster bombs by Syrian government forces, the envoys said.

The Syrian government and a number of opposition groups had accepted Brahimi's proposal to hold their fire for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha October 26-29 but there was hardly any lull in the fighting.

"The question of who violated the truce first is therefore not the key question," a diplomat said, quoting Feltman. "The main issue is that despite interest on both sides to silence guns, the parties remain locked in their fears and mistrust."

Feltman did, however, suggest that jihadists were to blame for sparking violence during the ceasefire, a diplomat said.

Overall, Feltman said that since Friday violence has returned to pre-October 26 levels and has in fact escalated in the north. He also said October 30 was the first time that Syrian government fighter jets struck the Damascus suburbs. The military had previously used helicopters.

The Security Council has been deadlocked for more than a year on Syria. Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions condemning the Syrian government and have ruled out the idea of sanctioning Assad's government.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Eric Beech and Bill Trott)