July 16, 2012 / 8:43 AM / 5 years ago

Russia's Lavrov signals no change in Syria stance

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a meeting with Syrian opposition leaders in Moscow July 11, 2012.Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signalled no change in Russia's position on the conflict on Syria on Monday before talks in Moscow with U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan.

Despite international pressure on Moscow to stop supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's administration, Lavrov reiterated Russia's opposition to a resolution being discussed by the U.N. Security Council on extending a monitoring mission in Syria which includes a threat of sanctions.

He told a news conference that such threats contained "elements of blackmail" and urged Russia's partners on the Security Council to support Moscow's own resolution, carrying no threat of sanctions against Damascus if it does not comply.

"We will not be able to allow passage of a Security Council resolution that is not based on the Geneva agreements," he said, referring to a plan agreed at international talks on Syria on June 30.

"If our partners decide to block our resolution no matter what, then the U.N. mission will not have a mandate and will have to leave Syria. That would be a pity."

Asked about international efforts to force Assad out of power, he said many Syrians still supported the president.

Russia has defended Assad at the United Nations by blocking sanctions and ruling out the use of outside force to end the conflict, and has continued to supply his government with arms since the start of the uprising against his rule 16 months ago.

Lavrov reiterated that Russia's policy did not revolve around one person but also said Moscow would not approve any political transition that was forced on the Middle East country and was not supported by the Syrian people.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Additional reporting by Nastassia Astrasheusskaya, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Jon Boyle

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