Wednesday, September 14, 2011

False Hope

Following a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday, President Medvedev of Russia has announced that his government will oppose any UN sanctions against the Syrian government. The Russian ambassador to the UN has already used his veto to block several resolutions earlier in the crisis, including a report on Iranian arm sales to Syria as well as two drafts of a Franco-British attempt to condemn the use of force by the Assad administration. Western powers have already proposed sanctions such as an arms embargo and a ban on the import of Syrian petroleum in order to pressurize the Syrian government to ease its military crackdown. Given that Russian firms are Syria’s main source of weaponry, and the close relations between Russia and the Syrian oil industry, it is clear that such sanctions would be detrimental to Russian interests. However, according to reports published late last week, it appeared as if the tone of Russian rhetoric had changed; following diplomatic pressure from Western powers, as well as a visit from a delegation of the Syrian opposition to Moscow, President Medvedev condemned the Syrian government’s use of violence and hinted at the possibility of supporting a new Security Council resolution on Syria. Such hopes were dashed following Monday’s meeting with Cameron when President Medvedev clarified his opposition to existing EU sanctions as well as the possibility of introducing further UN sanctions; whilst Western powers have been preparing a resolution calling for sanctions against the Syrian regime, it was revealed yesterday that Russia was preparing its own rival draft resolution which simply calls on the government and opposition to open direct talks. If Russia were to reduce its support for the Assad regime, it would prove hazardous for the Syrian government given its reliance on Russia for military, diplomatic and economic support. Speculation of such a shift in Russian foreign policy appears to be, at least for the time being, false hope.

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