China, Russia ‘decisively against’ Syria regime change


China and Russia said Wednesday they were “decisively against” intervention or regime change in Syria as Arab and Western calls mounted for tougher international action in the 15-month conflict.
As rebel fighters stepped up their attacks in and around Damascus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that regime change in Syria would lead the Middle East to “catastrophe”.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has voiced mounting frustration with the Chinese and Russian position, was to discuss the situation with allies in Istanbul later on Wednesday, a Turkish diplomatic source said.
In a joint statement issued after two days of talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leaders, Beijing and Moscow said they strongly opposed intervention and regime change in Syria. “Russia and China are decisively against attempts to regulate the Syrian crisis with outside military intervention, as well as imposing… a policy of regime change,” the statement said.
Speaking in the Chinese capital, the Russian foreign minister urged the international community to resist calls from the exiled opposition to help oust President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “(Opposition groups) outside Syria appeal to the world community more and more to bomb the Assad regime, to change this regime,” Lavrov told reporters in the Chinese capital. “This is very risky, I would even say it is a way that will bring the region to catastrophe.”
Lavrov hit out at the rebel Free Syrian Army’s announcement on Friday that it was no longer bound by a six-point peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and endorsed by the UN Security Council in a resolution backed by both Beijing and Moscow. Lavrov said it was important for all states that have sway over Syria’s opposition groups to convince them to stop escalating the situation, adding that Beijing and Moscow would continue in lockstep over Syria, opposing foreign intervention and forced regime change. Armed rebels went on the offensive in and around Damascus during the night while 18 people were killed in shelling, blasts and clashes across Syria on Wednesday, the Observatory said.
According to the Britain-based watchdog’s figures, at least 168 soldiers have been killed in the past week, including 76 at the weekend. Rebel fighters clashed with regime troops in Harasta and at checkpoints near Douma, Irbin amd Zamalka, all in the Damascus region, among several other neighbourhoods of the capital, the Observatory said. Clinton was to meet her British, French, Turkish and some Arab counterparts in Istanbul later ahead of a briefing by Annan of the UN Security Council on Thursday. Clinton said Wednesday she would reserve judgement on a Russian proposal for a global conference on Syria that would include Iran together with other powers. “It’s hard to imagine inviting a country (Iran) that is stage-managing the Assad regime’s assault on its people,” she said. Washington gave its backing to an Arab League’s proposal to invoke tough UN Chapter Seven sanctions against Damascus — without mentioning military intervention. “We the United States hope that all responsible countries will soon join in taking appropriate actions against the Syrian regime, including, if necessary, Chapter 7 action in the UN Security Council, as called for by the Arab League last weekend,” US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.