18 September 2013, 01:08

Syria hands Russia proof on rebels use of chemical weapons

Сергей Рябков

Sergei Ryabkov

Sergei Ryabkov

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.

Update: The talks between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Riabkov and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem were held on Tuesday in a businesslike atmosphere, Sergey Riabkov told RIA Novosti in the small hours of Wednesday.

Syria is prepared to submit all information about its chemical arsenals to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Riabkov stressed that this task should be accomplished within a week since the Russian-US agreements in Geneva.

At the same time, Moscow is disappointed with the politically charged and biased conclusions of UN chemical weapons inspectors who worked in Syria, Sergey Riabkov said.

He believes that the inspectors prepared their report at random, on a partial scale and without considering the circumstances that Russia repeatedly pointed out.

The UN inspectors’ conclusions are lopsided because they do not provide a full picture of the situation in Syria, Riabkov added.

On its part, Syria has passed Moscow new evidence of the armed opposition using chemical weapons.

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. 

NATO-Russia Council hails Syrian chemical weapons elimination plan

The NATO-Russia Council has welcomed a US-Russian plan to get rid of Syrian chemical weapons, the NATO chief said Tuesday.

"We welcomed the framework for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons agreed between the United States and Russia, called for expeditious agreement of a UN Security Council Resolution to ensure effective implementation of the framework," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after an extraordinary session to discuss Syria.

The sides "noted the importance of the swift, secure and verifiable elimination of Syria's stocks of chemical weapons," said Rasmussen, who is also the chairman of the NATO-Russia Council.

On Saturday, after days of intense negotiations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John 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.

"The members of the NATO-Russia Council condemn the use of chemical weapons and expect full compliance with the demands of the international community," Rasmussen's statement also said.

"In the event of non-compliance the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, as stated in the framework agreement," he said.

The NATO-Russia Council will keep backing all efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict, the NATO chief said.

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.

Lavrov said Tuesday that the UN report presented a day earlier had failed to answer certain questions and reiterated Moscow's position that the Ghouta attack had been a "provocation" by opposition forces.

The unrest in Syria began in March 2011 and later escalated into a civil war. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far, according to UN estimates.

UN's 'Big Five' to meet on Syria draft Tuesday - US

Diplomats from the United States, Russia, Britain,France and China will meet in New York on Tuesday to discuss a Western-drafted resolution on eradicating Syria's chemical arsenal in line with a US-Russian agreement, a US official said.

"Today, the P5 members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia, China) will meet to discuss the joint P3 (US, UK, France) draft Security Council Resolution on Syria's chemical weapons program," Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the US mission to the United Nations, said in an email.

"In order to respect the integrity of these negotiations, we will not be reading out the details of today's meeting or the draft Resolution," she said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he will ask world leaders to act to stop the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.

"I will make a strong appeal to world leaders in next week's UN General Assembly for action" in Syria, Ban told a news conference. He said also that a UN Security Council resolution on Syria should have teeth.

Based on findings that hundreds of people were killed by chemical weapons last month in the suburbs of Damascus, Ban called for the perpetrators of the attacks to be brought to justice.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he will press the foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China to take joint action on the Syria crisis at a meeting next week.

He made the announcement as UN envoys from the five permanent Security Council members met to discuss a French-drafted resolution on destroying Syria's chemical weapons.

Ban said attacks with banned chemical weapons, which had led to threats of a US military strike against President Bashar al-Assad, was only the "tip of the iceberg" in the Syria crisis.

He told a press conference the major powers had to take a "broader" look at the 30-month-old Syrian conflict and tackle the general surge in fighting and the mounting refugee and humanitarian strife.

The UN leader said he would meet with the foreign ministers of all five key nations in New York next week when world leaders gather for the UN General Assembly summit. UN officials said the meeting would be on September 25.

Ban is to meet separately with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss a possible peace conference to end what he called the "worst crisis we have experienced in many, many years."

The talks with Kerry and Lavrov are expected on September 28.

The permanent Security Council members held new negotiations Wednesday on a resolution to back a Russia-US accord aiming to destroy Assad's chemical weapons.

Diplomats said ambassadors discussed a French text which included a demand for action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if Assad does not stick to the plan. France also wants chemical weapons attacks in Syria referred to the International Criminal Court.

Lavrov said when agreeing the disarmament plan with Kerry in Geneva on Saturday that there would be a UN resolution with Chapter VII measures but no threat of force.

The Russian foreign minister said Tuesday, however, that his country would not allow any action under Chapter VII.

The UN's Chapter VII allows for compulsory economic sanctions and other measures as well as military force.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, dpa, RIA

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