August 2, 2011 / 2:33 PM / in 6 years

Russia says not against U.N. resolution on Syria

MOSCOW, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it would not oppose a United Nations resolution to condemn violence in Syria as long as it refrained from sanctions and other “pressures”.

The comments opened the door for progress on a possible resolution at the U.N. Security Council, of which Russia is a veto-wielding member, on a second day of consultations over how to react to fresh reports of bloodshed.

The Foreign Ministry’s Middle East and North Africa Department Chief, Sergei Vershinin, said Russia was not “categorically” against adopting a resolution on Syria.

“We are not formalists, we are not categorically against anything in particular,” he said.

“If there are some unbalanced items, sanctions, pressure, I think that kind of pressure is bad because we want less bloodshed and more democracy,” he told reporters.

Threats from Russia and China to veto a draft resolution condemning violence in Syria deadlocked the U.N. 15-member Security Council two months ago.

Germany, however, requested a new meeting over reports of new violence. Human rights groups, witnesses and residents said at least 122 civilians have been killed since Sunday when Syrian troops stormed the city of Hama to crush protests.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Monday that he thought issuing a resolution would be “somewhat excessive” and that a formal statement calling for an end to violence but urging a peaceful political solution, would be “satisfactory.”

President Dmitry Medvedev had strongly suggested in June that Russia would not back any resolution on Syria in the U.N. Security Council but stopped short of threatening a veto.

Moscow, a close ally of Damascus in Soviet times, currently has $4 billion worth of arms contracts with Syria, according to Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper.

Russia remains wary of Western intentions in the Arab world. It abstained in March from voting on a U.N. resolution that authorised limited military intervention in Libya and has often criticised the scope of NATO’s bombing campaign in that country.

Rights groups say 1,600 people have died during the five-month uprising against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. (Reporting by Thomas Grove, editing by Gareth Jones)

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