Syria’s opposition National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB) signaled on Tuesday a possible rethink of its long-standing aversion to foreign military intervention in the violence-wracked Middle East country.
Speaking on the sidelines of a downtown Moscow news conference, an NCB spokesperson told RIA Novosti that the movement would back an international military operation if it was “the only solution” to the more-than-year-long conflict.
“But we will not hurry to do this,” said Abdul-Aziz al-Kheir. “And only if it is in the interests of the Syrian people.”
He also stressed that if UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, backed by all major world powers, proved a failure, then the NCB would first call for a UN Security Council resolution to allow for “humanitarian intervention” in Syria.
But NCB delegation member Haytham Manna, spokesperson of the Arab Commission for Human Rights, cast doubt on the wisdom of any form of intervention, saying it could lead to a wider "regional" conflict.
NCB delegation members met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Syria. "This was an important and succesful meeting," said al-Kheir, without giving further details.
The foreign-based National Council opposition movement called in March for military intervention by Western and Arab to “protect civilians from attacks” by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
A ceasefire, part of Annan’s peace plan, was declared in Syria on Thursday, but reports say fighting has continued in a number of areas, including the rebel city of Homs.
NCB head Hassan Abdul-Azim told the news conference that Annan’s plan was “the last chance” for a peaceful settlement to the crisis gripping Syria. He also said again that the NCB would not negotiate with anyone with “the blood of the Syrian people on their hands.”
The New York-based Human Rights Watch organization said in a report earlier this month that Syrian government forces had executed scores of people in rebel towns and cities since December 2011.
Some 9,000 people have been killed in clashes between the government and the opposition in Syria since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, according to UN estimates.
The Friends of Syria group, which includes the United States and the United Kingdom, suggested earlier this month arming Syrian rebels, a proposal that Russia said would merely prolong the conflict.
And on Tuesday, Lavrov told third parties to stay out of the Syria crisis.
"There really are those who are interested in the failure of Kofi Annan's plan,” he said, without mentioning specific countries.
Russia has also twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions on Syria over what it says is a pro-rebel bias, but gave its full backing to Annan’s peace plan, which Damascus also supported.
And Arab Commission for Human Rights spokesman Manna told journalists on Tuesday that Russia’s position on Syria had altered dramatically in recent weeks and that he hoped Moscow would increase pressure on Assad.
"Representatives of the Russian government aren't inclined to back the idea of the preservation of the dictatorial regime," he said at the NCB news conference. "They are discussing the need for continuing democratic changes, and this is very important for us."
Lavrov also criticized earlier this month Assad’s handling of the uprising against his rule and said Syria needed to be “more decisive” to meet its commitments to Annan’s peace plan.