MOSCOW — Russia on Monday accused the West of effectively using blackmail to secure a new U.N. Security Council resolution that threatens sanctions and could open the door for possible future use of military force to end Syria's civil war.
The Security Council is deeply divided over a new resolution on Syria as international envoy Kofi Annan's plan for halting the fighting appears dead and the violence in the Arab state escalates.
The debate comes ahead of the July 20 expiration of the mandate for the 300-strong U.N. observer force that was deployed to Syria to monitor implementation of Annan's six-point peace plan and a cease-fire.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that the West was holding the observer mission hostage to its demands for sanctions on President Bashar Assad's government.
Russia, a longtime Syria ally, faces intense criticism that it is standing in the way of an end to the conflict there by refusing to approve a resolution even threatening possible sanctions.
Lavrov met Annan on Monday evening, though they were not expected to talk to the press afterward. The former U.N. chief was scheduled to meet with Russian President Putin today.
Russia has adamantly opposed international military intervention in Syria, and such a step has been all but ruled out publicly by Western nations.