JNN 04 April 2012 Damascus — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned Western and Arab nations against arming foreign-backed opposition groups in Syria, saying this will lead to “slaughter for many years”.
“It’s clear as daylight that even if you arm the opposition to the teeth, it won’t defeat the Syrian army, but there will simply be a war for many, many years, there will be mutual destruction,” Lavrov said on Monday in Baku, Azerbaijan.
On Sunday, several Persian Gulf Arab states and the United States pledged 100 million dollars to provide salaries and communications equipment for Syrian rebels fighting against the government.
The countries made the offer at an Istanbul conference of the “Friends of Syria”, a grouping of some 70 Western and Arab countries, which Damascus calls the “enemies of Syria.”
Saudi Arabia and Qatar also backed the idea of arming the opposition against Bashar Assad’s government.
Russia is supporting a six-point peace initiative proposed by the joint UN and Arab League special envoy, Kofi Annan, who told the UN Security Council on Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed on the April 10 deadline to put the plan to work.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011 and many people, including security forces, have lost their lives in the violence.
The West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of killing the protesters. But Damascus blames ”outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” for the unrest, stating that it is being orchestrated from abroad.
The Syrian government claims it has begun withdrawing troops from calm cities one week ahead of a deadline to implement an international cease-fire plan.
A government source said the withdrawal was in progress without providing details on when exactly it began. The claim could not immediately be verified and activists near the capital Damascus denied troops were leaving the area.
However, Russia has supported the Syrian government’s claims that it has begun putting the UN peace plan into action. President Bashar al-Assad agreed just days ago to an April 10th deadline to implement international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan. The truce requires Syrian government forces to withdraw from towns and cities and observe a cease-fire. Rebel fighters are required to follow suit by immediately ceasing hostilities. Western leaders have cautiously welcomed the April 10 deadline.