Tuesday, March 29, 2011
By Patrick Goodenough
(CNSNews.com) – Having chosen neither to endorse nor block the Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya, Russia and China are continuing to snipe from the sidelines, voicing growing frustration over a mission they say has overstepped its mandate.
With NATO having assumed command of both enforcing the no-fly zone and the additional “civilian protection mission” – attacking Muammar Gaddafi’s forces on the ground – the operation is threatening a new rift between NATO and Moscow, which has long viewed the transatlantic alliance with suspicion.
Russia and NATO members were to meet in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss Libya and, according to Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, “to confirm the limits that the U.N. Security Council placed on the participants of the conflict.”
Security Council resolution 1973 authorized a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” short of foreign occupation to protect civilians under threat of attack by the Libyan regime. Russia and China did not veto the measure when it came to a vote on March 17, but joined non-permanent members India, Germany and Brazil in abstaining.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared Monday that the operation has gone beyond the mandate of the resolution whose sole purpose, he said, was “to ensure the protection of the civilian population.”
“We believe that the coalition’s intervention in the civil war has not, essentially, been sanctioned by the UN Security Council resolution,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Lavrov as saying during a press conference with his Kyrgyz counterpart.
He pointed to reports that coalition planes were attacking Gaddafi’s forces on the ground, in support of the rebels.
Lavrov also called for an immediate ceasefire, echoing calls made in Beijing over the past week.
Criticism from the Chinese government and state-run media outlets have cited – without questioning – reports on civilian fatalities released by the Gaddafi regime.