Russia: Lavrov: US pressuring Russia into passing UN resolution on Syria allowing military force

23rd Sep 2013

The US is pushing Russia into approving a UN resolution that would allow for military intervention in Syria, in exchange for American support of Syria’s accession to OPCW, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

“Our American partners are starting to blackmail us: ‘If  Russia does not support a resolution under Chapter 7, then we  will withdraw our support for Syria’s entry into the Organization  for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). This is a  complete departure from what I agreed with Secretary of State  John Kerry’,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told  Channel 1’s Sunday Time program.

Chapter 7 of the UN charter would allow for potential military  intervention in Syria.

Western countries blinded by ‘Assad must go’ attitude

The head of Russia’s Foreign Ministry went on to say he was  surprised by the West’s “negligent” approach to the  conflict.

“Our partners are blinded by an ideological mission for regime  change,” said Lavrov. “They cannot admit they have made  another mistake.”

Slamming the West’s intervention in Libya and Iraq, the foreign  minister stated that military intervention could only lead to a  catastrophe in the region. Moreover, he stressed that if the West  really was interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict that  has raged for over two years, they would now be pushing for  Syria’s entry into the OPCW in the first place, not for the  ouster of President Bashar Assad.

“I am convinced that the West is doing this to demonstrate  that they call the shots in the Middle East. This is a totally  politicized approach,” said Lavrov.

The Russian foreign minister pointed out that in the case of a  military scenario, militants would come to power and Syria would  no longer be a secular state. Up to three quarters “of these  guys are Jihadists,” including the most radical groups such  as Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, who  want to create an Islamic Caliphate in Syria and in neighboring  territories, Lavrov said.



If our western partners think at least two steps ahead, they  cannot but understand it,” Lavrov noted.

As to why the West would want that, Moscow has so far received no  clear answer, but hears “mantras” on the necessity to promote  democracy and protect human rights, said the minister. That is  important, but “responsible politicians should be guided not only  by that. Not to care about stability in a key world region is  absolutely irresponsible,” he added.

According to Lavrov, some experts alleged that “someone is  attempting to create a guided chaos” in the region for their  own benefits. However, the foreign minister said he personally  sees no possible advantages that Western countries would gain if  they were behind moves to stir up instability.

There’s only an attempt to grasp a straw, and turn a blind  eye to the fact that the world is changing and becoming  multipolar,” Lavrov concluded.

  ‘A repeat of Geneva 2012’

Lavrov harked back to last year’s Geneva accord which was agreed  upon by the international community, including Russia and the US.  However, when the resolution went to the Security Council the US  demanded that Chapter 7 be included.

“History is repeating itself. Once again in Geneva an  agreement has been reached which does not contain any mention of  Chapter 7. But the Security Council wants to redo the document in  their own way to include it.”

He called on the West to observe international law and stop  writing resolutions motivated by their “geopolitical  ambitions.”

  ‘Both sides must hand over chemical weapons’

Sergey Lavrov has also insisted that opposition forces take part  in the decommissioning of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

“The solutions currently being worked out at the OPCW suggest  that all stocks of Syrian chemical weapons must be brought under  control and ultimately destroyed.”

Lavrov further charged that the West was “not telling the  whole story” by asserting that chemical weapons are only  possessed by the regime, and not the opposition.

  He added that the available information provided by the Israelis  confirmed that on at least two occasions, the rebels had seized  areas in which chemical weapons were stored and those arms might  have fallen into their hands.

“According to our estimates, there is a strong probability  that in addition to home-grown labs in which militants are trying  to cook up harmful and deadly concoctions, the data provided by  the Israelis is true,” the Russian FM said.

“Preparatory work for OPCW inspectors to assume control of  chemical weapons storage sites requires that those who fund and  sponsor opposition groups –  including extremists –    demand that they hand over the [arms] which have been seized so  that they can be destroyed, pursuant to the Convention on the  Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”

Lavrov added that Russia was not a guarantor for the disarmament  of Syria’s chemical weapons, as Syria’s commitments fell under  the auspices of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which is  internationally administered by the OPCW.

Lavrov said Russia and the US were working out a draft resolution  to be submitted to the OPCW, although several points were yet to  be agreed upon.

Earlier in September, Moscow said it would submit data to the  UNSC proving that the chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb were   used by the rebels.  These “purely  technical” documents were handed over to Russia by the Bashar  Assad government and are being examined by Russian specialists.  This data “is an addition to what we already know and to what  is known to…independent experts who give their assessments and  confirm that the opposition regularly resort to provocations,  attempting to accuse the regime of using chemical weapons”   and this way get foreign military support, Lavrov  said.

A UN experts team, who investigated the August 21 attack in  Syria, presented a report on their findings, in which they  described the ammunition and substances they discovered on the  scene, but made no conclusions regarding who was behind the  incident.

However, the US, along with Britain and France, moved quickly to  repeat their accusations against the Syrian  government.  “Such an approach is neither  scientific, nor professional but rather politicized and  ideology-driven,” the Russian foreign minister  stressed.

According to Lavrov, it was no secret that they did not need any  report. Long before the document was prepared, they stated that  they already knew everything from their intelligence findings –   which have never been presented to the public in full, the  Russian minister noted.

What they did show to us does not convince that the [Syrian]  regime is linked to the episode with the use of chemical  weapons,” Lavrov said.

He reiterated that there is also evidence by eyewitnesses,  including nuns from the Christian monastery close to the scene of  the deadly attack, and journalists who visited the area.  Reporters, Lavrov said, talked to militants who told them that  they “received from abroad munitions that they had never seen  before and did not know how to use them, but they used them in  the end.” There was also an open letter by the Pentagon and  CIA veterans to President Obama, where they say that the rebels  could have used chemical weapons.

Moscow expects the UN experts to go back to Syria to finish their  investigation there, which should include three other incidents  later in August when the Syrian army was attacked with poisonous  gas, Lavrov said.

Logistics of destruction

Sergey Lavrov said that the time frame for the elimination of  Syria’s chemical weapons was not unrealistic.

“The overwhelming majority of the figures as per timing, term,  beginning, finishing of the mission have been suggested by the  American side,” he added.

Even if the time frame is feasible, there remains disagreement on  the cost of the venture.

Earlier this week, President Assad said the destruction of  Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal would be a costly venture.

“It needs a lot of money, it needs about one billion [US  dollars]. It’s very detrimental to the environment. If the  American administration is ready to pay the money, and to take  responsibility of bringing toxic materials to the United States,  why don’t they do it?” Assad told Fox News

Lavrov said he had heard of the cost estimate, although during  his negotiations with his US counterpart in Geneva last week, the  figure was much lower. Lavrov said the discrepancy stemmed from  the fact that a professional estimate was in order.

“When OPCW experts visit Syria and view the storage sites for  chemical weapons, they will understand what can be destroyed on  the spot (and this is also possible) with the use of mobile  equipment which a number of states have, and those where special  factories need to be built, as we did when destroying Soviet  chemical weapons stockpiles. But for those which need to be taken  out of the country – toxic substances – will require a special  decision, because the convention considers it essential that the  destruction takes place on the territory of that country which  possesses the chemical weapons,” he said.

Lavrov said legal grounds would need to be found to move forward  in this case, but if all sides could agree in principle, then  drawing up a legally binding document will not be hard.

  He further noted the difficulties that would be faced in assuring  the security of both the Syrian and international experts tasked  with bringing the chemical weapons under control and laying the  groundwork for their ultimate destruction.

“We’ve considered that an international presence will be  demanded in those areas where experts are working. We are  prepared to allocate our own servicemen or military police to  take part in those efforts. I do not believe it is necessary to  send in a strong [military] contingency.] It seems to me that it  will be sufficient to send in military observers. It will be  necessary to do it in such a way that the observers will come  from all permanent members of the UN Security Council, Arab  states and Turkey, so that all conflicting sides in Syria  understand that this contingent represents all external  forces who are collaborating with one or the other conflicting  sides in Syria…so that they don’t resort to provocations,” he  said.

Lavrov reiterated previous statements made during his  negotiations with Secretary of State John Kerry following their  talks in Geneva last week that the opposition was equally  responsible for providing for the safety of OPCW and UN experts  in the country and not allowing for any “provocations.”

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