Russia expressed opposition on Friday to sanctions against Syria's government and said it needs more information about a French proposal for humanitarian corridors in the violence-torn country before taking a position.
At the current stage, what is needed is not resolutions, not sanctions, not pressure, but internal Syrian dialogue, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a weekly news conference.
Lukashevich spoke as Syria faced a Friday deadline to sign an Arab deal allowing monitors into the country or incur sanctions over its crackdown on protests including halting flights, curbing trade and stopping deals with the central bank.
Europe and the United States have already imposed several rounds of sanctions against Syria.
Russia teamed up with China last month to veto a Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad's government for violence the United Nations says has killed more than 3,500 people.
Moscow has urged the government to implement reforms, but has rejected pressure from opposition groups to join international calls for Assad's resignation and accused Western nations of trying to set the stage for armed intervention.
Lukashevich repeated those positions, saying Russia supported the Arab League's call for a halt to the violence but that radical opposition groups with foreign support shared the blame.
We believe that the most important tasks now are the unconditional halt to violence, whatever its source, and the intensification of the internal Syrian dialogue on the issues of democratic reforms in the country, the spokesman said.
He said outside military intervention was absolutely unacceptable and that human rights issues should under no conditions should be used as a pretext for interference in the internal affairs of states, in this case Syria.
But he did not shut the door on a French call for humanitarian corridors to alleviate suffering, saying Moscow needs more information about the proposal. I think we will return to this question when more clarity emerges about what specifically is being discussed, Lukashevich said.
After a meeting in Moscow on Thursday, diplomats from Russia, China and the other three emerging-market BRIC countries -- Brazil, India and South Africa -- warned against foreign intervention without U.N. backing.
Any external intervention in Syria's affairs that does not correspond with the United Nations Charter must be ruled out, a joint communique released by Russia's Foreign Ministry said.
In discussing the situation across the Middle East and North Africa, it said, they placed a special accent on the role of the U.N. Security Council, which holds primary responsibility for the support of international peace and security.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said the humanitarian plan for Syria did not amount to military intervention, even though convoys might need armed protection if corridors are established without Syrian government approval.
Juppe said this week that one way to set up corridors would be for the international community, the Arab League and the United Nations to persuade Syria to allow them, but he said France would consider other solutions if that did not happen.
If Syria were to refuse to accept humanitarian corridors, forcing it to do so would likely require a U.N. resolution.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Philippa Fletcher)