BEIRUT (AP) - A weekend massacre of more than 100 people emerged as a potential turning point in the Syrian crisis Monday, galvanizing even staunch ally Russia to take an unusually hard line against President Bashar Assad's government.
Analysts said Russia may be warning Assad that he needs to change course or lose Moscow's support, which has been a key layer of protection for the Syrian government during the uprising that began in March 2011.
Russia has grown increasingly critical of Damascus in recent months, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's latest comments were unusually strong. Although he said opposition forces have terrorists among them, he put the blame for 15 months of carnage primarily on Assad's government.
"The government bears the main responsibility for what is going on," Lavrov said in Moscow following a meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "Any government in any country bears responsibility for the security of its citizens."
Syria: Russia refuses to change stance despite William Hague's efforts
.....Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, insisted that "both sides" in Syria's conflict were responsible for the deaths of at least 108 people in the town on Friday, and that Russia was not interested in trying to remove Bashar al-Assad from power.
....He claimed, however, that foreign powers were undermining Russia's efforts by pressuring the rebels to provoke conflict, in order to destroy any peace plan and justify a request for outside intervention.
2. Russia is engaging in interesting diplomacy over Syria.
It's "dual diplomacy," and pretty smart given the circumstances - for their strategic interests. Earlier, I might have thought this would evolve into a Nicaragua/contra-style conflict, but the chances for that have passed - it's too messy.