DAMASCUS: The UN Security Council was to weigh a draft statement on Tuesday warning Syria of “further measures” if it fails to cooperate with peace envoy Kofi Annan, as fresh violence struck Damascus.
Russian support for a daily humanitarian truce had raised hopes of a breakthrough at the Security Council but on Tuesday Moscow made it clear its support of any UN statement on Syria was conditional.
“We are ready to back the mission of UN and Arab League representative Kofi Annan and the proposals to the government and opposition to Syria,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.
But the council “should approve them not as an ultimatum.”
And he stressed that the proposals Annan made to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad during their meetings in Damascus earlier this month had still not been published and needed to be put up for an open debate at the Security Council.
Lavrov’s comments came ahead of a Security Council meeting later Tuesday to discuss the draft which urges Assad and the armed opposition to “implement fully and immediately” Annan’s peace plan.
The Western-drafted statement, which France submitted on Monday, says the Security Council will “consider further measures” if nothing is done within seven days of any adoption.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Tuesday that: “We have no time to waste, no time to lose, because one minute, one hour of delay will mean more and more people dead.”
Monitors say a crackdown by the regime on dissent since last March has cost more than 9,100 lives.
On the ground, fresh clashes broke out Tuesday between security forces and army deserters in Damascus, said local activist Abu Omar.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said gunfire was heard in the Qaboon and Barzeh districts.
At least three rebels and a member of the security forces were killed on Monday in clashes which rocked the capital’s heavily-guarded Mazzeh neighborhood, state television and monitors said,
The fighting came after twin suicide car bombings hit security buildings in Damascus at the weekend killing 27 people, according to the interior ministry.
Elsewhere, four civilians were killed on Tuesday as a rocket hit their home in Homs and three others — a man, woman and their little girl — in Rastan, both cities in central Syria, it said.
Annan’s plan includes a halt to the year-long violence, humanitarian access, the release of detainees and withdrawal of security forces from protest cities.
Russia and China have since October twice used their powers as permanent members of the 15-nation council to veto resolutions on Syria.
They said the resolutions were aimed at regime change and that they opposed any sanctions.
Before Lavrow’s latest statement on the UN draft, the United States had welcomed what State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland termed “an evolution in the Russian public position” on the crisis in Syria.
Her comments followed a Russian foreign ministry statement after a meeting between Lavrov and International Committee of the Red Cross chief Jakob Kellenberger in Moscow on Monday which called for a daily humanitarian truce in Syria.
“The two parties call for the Syrian government and armed groups to immediately agree to a daily humanitarian truce to allow the ICRC access to the wounded and to civilians who need to be evacuated,” the foreign ministry said.
Moscow also “underscored the need to allow the ICRC access to all detained persons in Syria following the protests” against Assad’s regime.
Amid growing concern at the plight of civilians caught up in an increasingly-armed conflict, a technical mission sent by Annan arrived in Damascus at the weekend for talks on a monitoring operation to end the bloodshed.
Separately, technical experts from the UN and Organization of Islamic Cooperation are taking part in a Syrian government-led mission to assess the impact of the crackdown on protest hubs battered by security forces.
The mission to 15 cities, on the UN’s first such assignment in conflict-strewn Syria, was launched in the flashpoint city of Homs on Sunday.
Human Rights Watch warned on Tuesday meanwhile that the armed opposition was carrying out serious human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torture and execution of security force members and government supporters.
“The Syrian government’s brutal tactics cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the New York-based organization’s Middle East director.
The rights group said it had documented cases of kidnappings, torture and executions by opposition groups, often with a sectarian motive.
While the revolt in Syria had started as a largely peaceful uprising, it had transformed into an armed insurgency, especially since early February, the rights watchdog said.