Friday Jul 20, 201206:00 AM GMT
'Russia, China standing firmly behind Syrian gov't'
Fri Jul 20, 2012 6:0AM
Interview with Sharmine Narwani, Senior Associate at St. Antony's College, Oxford University
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So I think we might see the US take a step back, having seen that in fact with the escalation of violence, Russia’s position and China’s position becomes firmer.”

China and Russia have vetoed a Western-backed draft resolution against the Syrian government, requesting a new mandate for unarmed military observers in the Arab country.

The permanent UN Security Council members on Thursday blocked the resolution which called for new sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

The vote had been postponed on Wednesday upon a request by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and warnings from Moscow that the resolution for sanctions “would amount to direct support” for the terrorist groups in that country.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Sharmine Narwani Senior Associate at St. Antony's College, Oxford University, to further talk over the issue.

The video also offers the opinions of two additional guests: Rania Masri, with the United Nations Development Program in Cairo, and Lawrence Freeman who is with Executive Intelligence Review in Washington. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: Let’s look at whether that is the only reason why Russia voiced there in form of a veto at the UN. It was very interesting when they said that there is a geopolitical battle that is being fought in Syria and that it is all about Iran saying that after the United States went into Iraq, Iran gained power in the region that this is basically; Russia said if you ask, any of these member countries are going to agree with it on that. What do you make of that statement?

Narwani: I think we all know that Iran is a fundamental reason why the United States, the three permanent Security Council members who are spoilers in this and other countries in the region are focused so heavily on Syria and pushing regime change there.

For Russia, if your question is specifically about Russia, I would say that Russia like a lot of other countries in the developing world and in the major emerging economies are concerned about certainly what the gentleman earlier said but we are seeing a shift in the balance of power globally, partly because of the global financial economic crisis but also BRIC countries for instance and others have not had a seat at the main table in global institutions for far too long and I think they are demanding a say; they are demanding the right to redress this global imbalance in power and Syria has become a frontline battle for that.

But beyond that there are other issues certainly the radicalization of the violence in Syria threatens to spill over broadly into the region and certainly that is of concern to Russia and Iran and other regional players who have seen time and time again the growth of Salafist groups and other militant groups operating on their territory. So there is a wide variety of reasons but certainly the geopolitical ones are very valid.

Press TV: I would like to break this into three and find out what is next: what is first of all going to be the moves that the US is going to make based on your opinion along with their partners and then the next two groups are going to be obviously the opposition on the ground and of course we are then looking at what Russia is going to do but, first, to you regarding the next move by US and its partners regarding Syria.

Narwani: There was a period, a few months back, that it looked like the US and its partners were actually by and large taking a step back and looking for an exit strategy because you had the French presidential election; the US presidential election is coming up later this year and I think Syria was becoming too cumbersome an issue.

Something thoroughly changed. They are back in the game; losing a vote to third time at the Security Council, I think now the questions about whether Russia or China can be swayed to move away from their existing position on Syria, if it is not clear to the US, France and UK, there is something wrong with them.

So I think we might see the US take a step back, having seen that in fact with the escalation of violence, Russia’s position and China’s position becomes firmer. So we might see that. I mean we have a US presidential election coming up in a few months. That will be part of the consideration.

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