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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syria Ceasefire Efforts in Russia's Interests - Panetta

RIA Novosti

05:58 20/04/2012 WASHINGTON, April 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia’s cooperation with the international community to achieve a ceasefire in Syria is in its own interests, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday.

“Russia has been cooperative with regards to enacting support for the [UN envoy Kofi] Annan effort at ceasefire. They seem to be working with the international community in trying to advance that ceasefire and getting it in place,” Panetta said in Congress.

“You know, the most important leverage, frankly, for Russia is to try to make sure that they understand that, in fact, their interests are served by taking these steps,” he said.

“Because once [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad goes, the interests that they have in Syria are going to go away unless they participate with the international community,” Panetta said.

“Russia has a long history of having provided military and economic assistance to Syria. The good news is that Russia is now working with us to try to get a ceasefire and, hopefully, put that in place,” he said.

“And they are, I think, at least working with the international community right now. But the reality is that Russia could have a much more significant impact on Syria and on Assad if they were willing to assert that,” the defense secretary said.

A ceasefire, part of Annan’s peace plan, came into force in Syria on April 12, although there have been reports of numerous violations of the truce by both government and opposition forces.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak of a popular uprising against President al-Assad last March, according to UN estimates.

Russia has 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.

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