DAMASCUS, September 18 (RIA Novosti) - The Syrian authorities handed over to Russia evidence proving that opposition forces were allegedly involved in the use of chemical weapons last month, a senior Russian diplomat said.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday night after the meeting with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in Damascus that “this evidence must be analyzed.”
UN inspectors said Monday that they had found “clear and convincing evidence” that chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, were used in an August 21 attack that killed hundreds of people in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
The inspectors had no mandate to determine who had launched the attack - which the US and some of its Western allies have attributed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but Moscow and Syria have called a provocation by anti-Assad rebels.
The diplomat added that Moscow was “disappointed” with the way the UN mission of experts in Syria approached the report and called it as “incomplete.”
“Without the full picture of the events here [in Syria] we cannot but call the nature of conclusions drawn by UN experts… as politicized, biased and unilateral,” Ryabkov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday the report did not answer many questions and called for additional UN investigations into allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria.
The US position that Assad’s regime was behind the August 21 attack had prompted Washington to threaten “limited” retaliatory military strikes against Syrian government targets. This plan was put on hold last week after Lavrov put forward a proposal, based on off-the-cuff comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry, that a strike could be avoided if Syria were to put its chemical weapons under international control.
On Saturday, after days of intense negotiations, Lavrov and Kerry announced an ambitious plan under which all chemical weapons in Syria would be opened up to international inspectors by November and destroyed by mid-2014.
(Updates with additional Ryabkov’s quotes and background in paras. 5-9)