MOSCOW, March 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russia strongly condemned the Arab League on Thursday, calling its decision to admit the Syrian opposition as the country’s representative to the organization an abandonment of plans for a peaceful settlement.
At the 24th Arab League summit, which ended in Qatar’s capital Doha on Tuesday, Syria was represented by the Western-backed opposition Syrian National Coalition and its head Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow viewed the summit as an undoing of efforts to achieve a political settlement.
Lavrov said transferring Syria’s seat at the Arab League to the opposition grouping was in breach of rules of procedure, which he said required consensus for a country to be removed.
The decision was opposed by Iraq and Algeria, while Lebanon abstained.
Lavrov also cast doubt on UN and Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s ability after the Doha decisions to pursue his mandate to advance negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition.
The remarks follow a statement on Wednesday from the Russian Foreign Ministry describing the Arab League’s decision to allow members to supply the Syrian opposition forces with weapons as a violation of international law.
The Arab League suspended the Bashar al-Assad regime’s membership in 2011 as punishment for violence against opposition forces. It offered the vacant seat to the Syrian National Coalition at a meeting in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on March 6.
About 70,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against President Assad in March 2011, according to UN figures. Russia, along with China, has faced widespread condemnation over its refusal to approve UN sanctions against Assad’s regime.
Moscow has repeatedly claimed it has no interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but that it is concerned that unilateral sanctions leading to his downfall could create a power vacuum and lead to more violence.