Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Syria has withdrawn military units from some provinces in response to a U.N.-brokered ceasefire deadline which came took effect on Tuesday.
But Muallem said that the ceasefire must be in the presence of an international team to observe its implementation in the country; a condition which analysts say could be a ploy to delay talks.
“The end of violence must be simultaneous with the arrival of international monitors to the country,” Muallem told a press conference in Moscow.
“We pulled back some vehicles from some provinces according to [Kofi] Annan‘s plan,” Muallem said in reference to a plan proposed by the international envoy to withdraw troops from rebel areas across Syria.
But the foreign minister’s condition for the ceasefire was “another delaying tactic” in which he tried “to turn the clock back to the Arab League observer mission, which was clearly a failed mission,” according to Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Center think tank in Doha and the former U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
“It was a very transparent, cynical attempt to try and roll this out for a bit longer.
“But I don’t think any U.N. mission should go into Syria without a ceasefire first to establish their protection,” he added.
The Syrian foreign minister was in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in an effort to persuade Russia to maintain support for the Damascus regime even as hopes for a U.N.-backed peace plan slipped away.
Muallem also accused Turkey of undermining Annan’s peace plan by arming Syria’s rebels and helping them cross the border.
“Turkey... supports illegal Syrian militant groups, supplies them with weapons... and lets them illegally cross into Syria,” Muallem said in a press conference with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. “How can we (fulfill the plan) if there are still illegal arm deliveries and moving of militants from Turkey?”
Lavrov said Muallem informed him that Damascus was starting to fulfill the key condition of moving troops and weapons from protest cities, but said Syria’s actions could be more decisive.
“We believe their actions could have been more active, more decisive,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Muallem.
“I definitely think this presser between Muallem and Lavrov has effectively killed Annan’s plan, Russians are strangely impotent on what they could do on the implementation of the U.N. plan,” Shaikh said.
He added that Russia and Syria in this instance were focusing their discussions on an observer mission which the analyst says has been “a ploy” to delay talks.
Russia has been one of the very few world powers to offer some support to President Bashar al-Assad in his bloody standoff with protestors but has also backed the plan of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to end the violence.
The visit by the veteran foreign minister to Moscow coincides with a deadline under the Annan plan for the Syrian government to withdraw forces from protest cities, which so far it has shown little sign of observing.
“There is the Annan plan. It contains concrete points and we fully support this plan,” the Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying ahead of the talks on Monday.
Muallem, who arrived in Moscow late Monday, was due to hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov followed by a news conference later Tuesday.
Russia has repeatedly condemned the West for taking what it says is a one-sided approach in the conflict but has in recent weeks shown signs of growing exasperation with the intransigence of the Assad regime.
Moscow says its position is objective and gives it unmatched influence over Damascus, although rights activists have accused Russia of giving a green light to violence that has left more than 9,000 dead according to the U.N.
(Additional writing by Eman El-Shenawi)