Russia pushes back on no-fly-zone options

"That would be a violation of sovereignty if [no-fly zones] included areas of Syrian territory as well as a breach of the United Nations charter," based on talks between Moscow, Ankara and Amman, Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told Sky News Arabia on Sunday.

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Rebel forces looking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad have pleaded with the United States and its allies to establish a no-fly zone along the Turkish border, patrolled by American airpower, as a way to counter the government's blistering air assaults against rebel positions in the northern city of Aleppo and elsewhere. 

U.S. proponents of using American warplanes in Syria claim the no-fly zones will also protect the thousands of refugees that have begun to flood into Turkey to escape the growing civil war. 

However, Lavorv cited several humanitarian initiatives being implemented by the Syrian regime and the United Nations to address the safety of those refugees piling up along the Syrian-Turkey border. 

With those initiatives in place, a no-fly zone established by the United States or its allies would only benefit anti-government forces based in northern Syria, Lavorv argued. 

"If they are trying to create safe zones and no-fly zones for military purposes by citing an international crisis, that is unacceptable," the Russian official said. 

Russia has been an outspoken critic of U.S. and international efforts to escalate support to anti-Assad rebels during the 18-month long conflict. Moscow has sent units of Russian marines and special forces into Syria to support Assad's campaign against the rebels. 

But while Syria remains one of Moscow's most important allies in the region, Assad's brutal armed crackdown on rebel forces has turned up the heat on Russia and its ties to the regime.

The failure of a proposed peace plan in Syria, brokered by former U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, has only ratcheted up international pressure for some kind of military intervention in the country. 

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon officially ended the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Syria, disbanding the team of U.N. observers that had been on the ground since March.

That said, Lavrov claims American diplomatic and military leaders are looking to take advantage of the failed peace plan as a way to set up the no-fly zones in Syria. 

"It is a position that is incomprehensible to us," according to the Russian diplomat, adding the failed peace negotiations cannot be used as "a mandate to bring down the [Assad] regime." 

"To say now the [peace plan] is dead means that there are those who are looking for any pretext to declare there is no prospect for peaceful settlement and to resort to military action," Lavrov said. "This is what worries us and it is the road to a major disaster in the area." 

In Washington, top administration officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan, are still weighing the idea of the no-fly zones. 

However, a top American diplomat on Wednesday openly questioned whether Washington had the legal authority or the military wherewithal to enforce no-fly zones along the Turkish-Syrian border. 

"There are serious legal and practical obstacles on this issue," U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone reportedly told Turkish media outlets. 

If U.S. or international military aid does not come, via no-fly zones, rebel commanders in Aleppo have threatened to strike an alliance with the growing contingent of al Qaeda fighters streaming into Syria. 

"We don't want al-Qaeda here, but if nobody else helps us, we will make an alliance with them," Abu Ammar, a rebel commander stationed in Aleppo, said Thursday. 

U.S. intelligence claims that al Qaeda factions in Syria are already beginning to coordinate their operations there, laying the possible groundwork for a new Syrian terror cell.

Without armed support from Washington or its partners, Syria's rebel factions are now willing to let that happen. "You can bet if Al-Qaeda comes here ... the city will become their base within three months," according to Ammar.