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Syria on brink of civil war: Russia

France,Defence/Security, Sat, 21 Apr 2012 IANS

Moscow, April 21 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Syria faces a catastrophic civil war if both sides in the crisis fail to take advantage of the current ceasefire there, Russia's foreign ministry said.

 

"A very important event in the developments in the country has come about. The issue in Syria now is the choice between a transition towards peaceful, nationwide talks or a descent into civil war," the ministry said in a statement on its website.

 

UN envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan for Syria stipulated the start of a ceasefire April 12 in a bid to stop the violence that has so far claimed around 9,000 lives.

 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he had seen "troubling" evidence of ceasefire violations by both government troops and rebel forces.

 

He said Syria had failed to comply with its obligations under Annan's peace plan to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from urban areas.

 

Russia's foreign ministry said Friday the ceasefire was holding, despite "violations and provocations" but warned of a "new circle of violence" in the event of its breakdown.

 

Foreign ministers from the Friends of Syria coalition -- of which Russia is not a part -- met in Paris Thursday, and said in a statement that the ceasefire and Annan's peace plan were the "last hope" of avoiding civil war in Syria.

 

French President Nikolas Sarkozy accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of seeking to wipe the rebel city of Homs "off the map".

 

Russia has twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions over what it called pro-rebel bias since the start of an uprising in March 2011 against the rule of Assad, but gave its full backing to Annan's peace plan.

 

Ban has called for an increase in the UN mission to Syria to 300 observers. Thirty observers are currently permitted to monitor the ceasefire under a UN resolution, but only six are currently on the ground.

 

Russia's foreign ministry said Friday a delegation from the Syrian Popular Front for Change and Liberation opposition movement would visit Moscow for talks next week.

 

Delegates from another internal opposition movement, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB), held talks with Lavrov in Moscow this week, after Lavrov met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

 

--IANS/RIA Novosti

 

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