UN experts to return to Syria soon; America maintains its aggressive military option against Assad regime
Moscow/Stockholm/UNHQ/Washington, 18 September
The Syrian regime has handed Russia new materials implicating rebels in a chemical attack outside Damascus on 21 August, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said today after talks in Damascus.
“The corresponding materials were handed to the Russian side. We were told that they were evidence that the rebels are implicated in the chemical attack,” Mr Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem late yesterday.
He said that Russia would “examine the Syrian materials implicating the rebels with the utmost seriousness”. To the fury of the West, Russia has repeatedly expressed suspicion that the chemical attack was a “provocation” staged by the rebels with the aim of attracting Western military intervention in the conflict.
Mr Ryabkov also said Russia was disappointed with the UN report into the chemical weapons attack published this week, saying it was selective and had ignored other episodes.
“Without a full picture… we cannot describe the character of the conclusions as anything other than politicised, biased and one-sided,” he said. Mr Ryabkov is on a visit to Damascus to present the Syrian regime with the results of the agreement between Moscow and Washington reached in Geneva at the weekend to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.
He said he emphasised to Mr Muallem the importance of the Syrian side “strictly and swiftly” handing over details of its chemical weapons arsenal to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the first step in the agreement.
The Russia-US agreement is aimed at warding off the threat of US-led military action as retribution for the chemical attack, which the West blames squarely on the regime.
The Syrian Ambassador to Moscow, Riyad Haddad, told the Interfax news agency that Mr Ryabkov was expected to have a meeting yesterday with President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr Ryabkov said he assured the Syrian side that there was “no basis” for a UN Security Council resolution on the chemical weapons agreement to invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter that allows the use of force and tough sanctions.
He said this could only be considered if the UN Security Council was able to confirm violations of the convention on chemical weapons. “This is a hypothetical situation.”
“It is especially important that some kind of political interests do not again appear, especially in New York (at the UN Security Council),” he added.
Terming the use of chemical weapons in Syria as “tip of the iceberg”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for unity among Security Council members for an “enforceable” resolution to end the crisis in the troubled country.
Mr Ban said he will use his meetings with world leaders during the General Assembly next week to a make a “strong appeal” for “action now”.
“This is a crucial period for global cooperation. Syria is the biggest peace, security and humanitarian challenge we face. Let us be clear: the use of chemical weapons in Syria is only the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Ban said here yesterday.
Asserting that the suffering in Syria must end, Mr Ban said he was encouraged by the framework agreement reached between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on dealing with Syria’s chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, UN chemical weapons inspectors will return to Syria soon to investigate various accusations against the regime and the Opposition, their chief said today.
“Yes we will be returning to Syria. Our planning isn’t finished yet, so I can’t say when we will be going, but it will be soon,” UN chief inspector Aake Sellstroem said.
His team, which went to Syria last month, concluded in a report presented on 16 September that banned chemical weapons were used on a wide scale in the Syrian civil war.
There was clear evidence sarin gas killed hundreds of people in an attack on Ghouta near Damascus on 21 August, the report said. “The report that was presented was an interim report,” Dr Sellstroem said.
“There have been other accusations presented to the UN Secretary-General, dating back to March, against both sides” in the conflict, he said.
There were 13 or 14 accusations that “have to be investigated”, he added.
A UN-mandated independent commission of inquiry into rights violations in the Syrian conflict said on Monday it was investigating 14 alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
On the other hand, the USA would maintain its aggressive military posture against Syria, the White House has said even as diplomatic paralyses continues at the United Nations.