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Russia, China oppose military intervention in Syria; Turkey, Japan expel Syrian envoys

By Al Arabiya & Agencies | 30 May 2012

Russia and China on Wednesday signaled their opposition to any military intervention in Syria as Turkey and Japan joined the list of western countries that expelled the Syrian envoys in protest of al-Houla massacre.

Russia said that the U.N. Security Council should not consider new measures to resolve the crisis in Syria at this point and signaled it would block any effort to authorize military intervention as China reiterated its opposition to either military intervention or regime change in Syria.

The warnings came after the French President Francois Hollande said military intervention was not ruled out provided it was backed by the Security Council, and Germany said it would push for “new engagement” by the council on Syria, according to Reuters.

Russia supported a non-binding U.N. Security Council statement on Sunday that strongly condemned the killing of more than 100 civilians in the Syrian town of al-Houla, criticized the government for using heavy weapons against population centers and called on the government and its foes to end the violence.

That statement was “a strong enough signal to the Syrian sides and a sufficient reaction by the council to the latest developments,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said, the Interfax news agency reported.

“We believe consideration in the Security Council of any new measures to influence the situation now would be premature,” said Gatilov, whose country has twice vetoed Western-backed council resolutions condemning President Bashar al-Assad’s government over 15 months of bloodshed.

Commenting on Hollande’s remark, Gatilov said Russia “categorically opposes any external intervention in the Syrian conflict, as it would only aggravate the situation with unpredictable consequences for Syria and the entire region.”

No military intervention, no regime change

Meanwhile, China on Wednesday reiterated its opposition to military intervention or regime change in Syria, and called again for all sides to support mediation efforts by peace envoy Kofi Annan.

“China opposes military intervention and does not support forced regime change,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news briefing. “The fundamental route to resolving (the crisis) is still for all sides to fully support Annan's mediation efforts.”

Liu also stopped short of saying whether China would expel Syrian diplomats, after many Western governments expelled their top Syrian envoys in protest against the killing of civilians in Syria.

“I have not heard that there has been any impact on the Syrian embassy in China,” he said, according to Reuters.

Russia and China had previously blocked two Security Council resolutions condemning President Assad.

But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia was not a supporter of the Assad government and put the blame for the al-Houla attack on his troops, according to AFP.

Western and Arab governments opposed to Assad put the blame for the deaths squarely on his government, but Damascus has rejected the charge. The massacre was among the worst carnage of the 14-month uprising against Assad’s government.

Any military intervention in Syria needs to be discussed thoroughly as it would carry high risk, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Wednesday after expelling two Syrian diplomats a day earlier.

“To arm the Syrian opposition involves real difficulties. Members of the Assad government will interpret this as a license to slaughter even more vigorously than they've been doing to their political opponents,” Carr told reporters.

Turkey, Japan expel Syrian envoys

Turkey, meanwhile, has told Syrian diplomats to leave the country in 72 hours, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, the latest diplomatic move against Damascus following the weekend massacre of over 100 civilians.

“As the host country, it has been demanded... that Syria’s charge d’affaires in Ankara and all other diplomatic personnel leave our country within 72 hours as of May 30, 2012,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also said Turkey and the international community will take further “measures” if crimes against humanity continue in Syria.

Earlier on Wednesday, Japan told the Syrian ambassador in Tokyo to leave the country, the foreign ministry said.

The Japanese government asked Mohammed Ghassan al-Habash to depart “as soon as possible,” an official told AFP.

The move lines Tokyo up with many of its Western allies who have kicked out Syrian diplomats after expressing disgust over the massacre of civilians in al-Houla.

Tokyo gave no definite time frame for the expulsion.

On Tuesday, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States all kicked out the highest ranking Syrian diplomats in their countries in a bid to increase pressure on President Assad’s regime.

In the U.S., the highest ranking diplomat was given 72 hours to pack his bags.

Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Switzerland followed suit, while Belgium declared the Syrian ambassador “persona non grata” but said he could not be expelled as he was also EU envoy and there was no unanimity in the 27-nation bloc.



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