MOSCOW, September 17 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s top diplomat called Tuesday for additional investigations into allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, saying a UN report presented a day earlier had failed to answer certain questions and reiterating Moscow’s position that the attack was a “provocation” by opposition forces.
The report did not say “where the weapon was made – at an official factory or using homemade methods,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters after a meeting with his French counterpart. “There are no answers to other questions as well.”
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.
“We have the most serious grounds to believe this was a provocation,” Lavrov said Tuesday. “And some of our partners have unequivocally stated that only the [Assad] regime could have used chemical weapons, but the truth must be established.”
Lavrov likewise said that reports of other chemical weapons use in Syria must be investigated, citing three dates within a week of the August 21 incident.
“The inspectors must still do all this, and afterward they will put together a final report about their mission,” he said.
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.