Russia and the US have clashed over growing calls for the UN Security Council to take action against Syria over a crackdown on anti-government protests which the world body says has left at least 5,000 people dead.
Russia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that ultimatums would not help end the unrest and rebuffed calls for Moscow to join countries that have imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Sergei Lavrov also said Western nations had taken an “immoral” stance on Syria by criticising Russia and heaping pressure on Assad while turning a blind eye to violent action by armed anti-government protesters.
Lavrov said Western governments “refuse to raise the pressure on the armed extremist flank of the [Syrian] opposition, and at the same time accuse us of blocking the United Nations Security Council’s work”.
But a spokeswoman for the US State Department said later that it was time for the Security Council to speak up, calling its silence on Syria “unconscionable” and urging Russia to back collective action against Damascus.
“And we are again calling on our partners on the Security Council to be willing to take action and speak out for the innocents in Syria who are suffering at the hands of the regime, including Russia,” Nuland said.
The exchange between came amid reports of more deaths across Syria on Tuesday as activists said at least 41 people had been killed in different locations.
Of those, 19 people were reported dead in Idlib, two in Homs, three in Hama and another three in Deraa.
Two other bodies were also found on Tuesday, but Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting near the border with neighbouring Jordan, said they were killed on Monday.
Tuesday’s attacks further swell the estimated 5,000 deaths that the chief of the UN human rights division, Navi Pillay, says have been documented by the world body since the start of the uprising.
Lavrov said there was little evidence to suggest that sanctions would help end the crisis in Syria.
“Regrettably, all the experience shows that sanctions – with the rarest exceptions – never work,” he said.
“And we’re not ready to resort to them, except for the most critical cases. At the same time we stand for a resolute action, but the one that is aimed at searching for ways to achieve peace, not intensifying one-sided pressure.”
Moscow, as well as Beijing, has resisted the push by the US and other Western nations for United Nations sanctions on Assad’s regime as it tries to crush the uprising inspired by similar movements in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab states.
Fresh attacks by Syrian security officials included a raid on the Harasta suburb as well as the Zahleh, Afran Teebeh, and Al Bustan districts, according to reports by the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC), a pro-protesters outfit.
Residents reported heavy gunfire on homes, and said security forces were stealing gold and valuables and were making random arrests, according to a SRGC communiqué.
Activists have also reported a brutal attack by security forces on Kafr Yahmoul village in Idlib, where 13 people were killed and tens were injured.
The SRGC said security forces reportedly used grenades and machine guns to attack a group of residents gathered in one of the neighbourhoods of the village while in Deraa, two explosions shook Kherbet Ghazaleh along with heavy gunfire.
The flare-up of violence has highlighted how Syria’s uprising, which earlier this year involved mostly peaceful demonstrations in small towns and cities, has become an armed rebellion in the countryside along the Turkish border.
Military defectors, known as the Free Syrian Army, have found shelter alongside thousands of Syrian refugees on the Turkish side, making use of mountainous terrain, local smuggling networks and support among villagers on the Syrian side to stage cross-border attacks.
Government forces have responded with stepped-up border patrols and reprisal raids on villages where anti-government protests have been frequent.