July 18, 2012 - 16:05 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks on the escalating violence in Syria with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, July 18 just hours before a vital UN vote on the Kremlin's sole remaining ally in the Arab world, RIA Novosti reported.
Erdogan is expected to attempt to persuade the Kremlin to abandon its opposition to a Western-backed UN resolution that could clear the way for foreign military intervention in Syria. But Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said ahead of the Security Council vote that Moscow would use its veto to block any resolution that called for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Putin vowed earlier this year not to allow a repeat of the “Libya scenario,” which saw the ouster and murder of long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi after a NATO military campaign. Both Russia and China have blocked previous UN resolutions against Assad’s regime, which the United Nations has accused of complicity in the massacre of unarmed civilians.
Immediately ahead of the talks, Syrian state television said that the country’s defense minister had been killed in a suicide bombing at the national security building in Damascus, as heavy fighting continued to rage in the capital. The rebel Free Syria Army said earlier this week it had launched the final battle for control of Damascus.
Erdogan’s visit comes a day after Putin’s meeting with UN special envoy Kofi Annan, which did little to boost Western hopes that Russia would change its stance on what Western powers have said is its support for Assad. Putin said only that Russia remained committed to Annan’s floundering peace plan and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Western powers to seek a “compromise” deal on Syria.
Turkey, which neighbors Syria, has provided shelter to refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and has been one of Assad’s harshest critics during the almost 17-month revolt against his rule.
Tensions between Turkey and Syria flared dangerously last month after Damascus shot down a Turkish fighter that had violated its airspace. Turkey threatened retaliation if there was any repeat of the incident, although it admitted the plane had mistakenly strayed slightly into Syria.
The United Nations, quoting Syrian rights activists, says some 16,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the revolt.