GENEVA – Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Tuesday a U.N. Security Council resolution put forward by Western powers to punish Syria’s government over its alleged use of chemical weapons would harm peace talks in Geneva.
The resolution, vetoed by Russia and China, amid U.N.-led peace talks between the warring Syrian parties, had aimed to ban the supply of helicopters to the Syrian government and to blacklist Syrian military commanders.
“It is counter-constructive,” Gatilov told reporters. “The climate will be negative, not because we veto it, but because this resolution was put forward.”
Salem al-Muslet, a spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee, said that the opposition regretted Russia’s seventh veto on Syria, but planned to meet Gatilov and hoped that Russia would pressure its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We hope that they come here having something in mind to push the political process here in Geneva, because with this regime, we will reach nowhere unless there is a pressure and the only country that can deliver pressure on the regime is Russia,” Muslet told Reuters Television.
The Geneva peace process has barely reached first gear, with five days of discussion solely on how to arrange the talks.
The negotiations would only begin in earnest when the Syrian government started discussing a transitional governing body and “the real transitional process in Syria”, Muslet said.
Russia is seen playing a key role because of its influence with Assad and because it has driven a new diplomatic push since December, when its air force helped defeat rebels in Aleppo, Assad’s biggest victory in six years of war.
The opposition has long distrusted Russia as a peace broker, and a ceasefire backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey has not entirely stopped the fighting.
“It’s complicated to talk to the Russians. We need to talk to them, but we risk being accused at any moment of being traitors, especially after what happened at the U.N. today,” a member of the opposition delegation said.
Gatilov said he would meet the opposition on Wednesday. Opposition sources had said they expected to meet the Middle East director at Russia’s foreign ministry, Sergei Vershinin, later on Tuesday.
However, those meetings appeared in doubt after the Russian veto.
TARI ABI NADER