A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday it won't allow a no-fly zone over Syria. The announcement was made as this year's G-8 summit begins in Northern Ireland, where the issue of Syria is likely to be often-discussed and hotly contested. The G-8 summit will also be the first time this year when U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet face-to-face.
The U.N. and leaders of the international community have been discussing the enforcement of a no-fly zone for months, citing the Libyan conflict in 2011, wherein the West intervened militarily and ultimately assisted in toppling the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, as a template. But the Russians have steadfastly opposed a similar measure in Syria, citing international law.
"You don't have to be a great expert to understand that this will violate international law," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday at a press conference in Moscow.
Russia has been on the side of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011. Putin has already sniped at Obama over the U.S. announcement that it will begin to supply guns and other arms to the Syrian rebels. Speaking to Reuters, Putin described the rebels as “cannibals” who “eat their enemies' intestines in front of cameras,” in reference to a YouTube video that cropped up earlier this year allegedly showing a Syrian rebel fighter eating the heart of a man he had just killed.
"Are these the people you want to support? Is it them who you want to supply with weapons?" Putin said to Reuters.
Indeed, no one is expecting much out of the G-8 summit about Syria. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Reuters, “We are not, unless there is a big shift in position on [Putin’s] part, going to get a common position with him at the G-8.”
The G-8 summit involves the heads of government from the U.S., Japan, Canada, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and Italy.