Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius have a meeting in the Russian Foreign Ministry's mansion (RIA Novosti / Eduard Pesov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius have a meeting in the Russian Foreign Ministry’s mansion (RIA Novosti / Eduard Pesov)

The resolution that the UN Security Council is to adopt in support of the plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons won’t refer to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, regulating the use of military force on behalf of the council, Sergey Lavrov says.

The foreign minister explained Russia’s position on the future document after meeting his French counterpart Laurent Fabius in Moscow.

The resolution, Lavrov stressed, is meant only to affirm the support of the UNSC to the roadmap for destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile, which will be penned by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

It will also outline measures which fall outside of the OPCW authority, particularly providing security for the organization’s inspectors, who would oversee the process on the ground in Syria. But the resolution would not include any references to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which grants the Security Council a right to use military force to restore peace, Lavrov stressed.

“The resolution of the Security Council, which will approve the decision of the OPCW executive council, will not be over Chapter 7. We said it distinctly in Geneva and the document that we agreed on says no single word about it,” Lavrov said.

Russia has brokered a deal under which the Syrian government agreed to scrap its chemical weapons arsenal to defuse tension that sparked after a sarin gas attack on August 21. The agreement, prepared by Russia and the US, put on hold American plans to use military force against Syria over the attack, which Washington blames on Damascus.

Earlier US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Russia is committed to imposing Chapter 7 measures in case of Syria’s non-compliance with its obligation to destroy its chemical weapons. Lavrov explained that the Security Council would be closely monitoring OPCW’s mission in Syria and will take action, if it finds concrete proof that some party is actively undermining the process.

The UNSC would act on such occurrences, which may be Syria drawing away from the deal, some other party hampering the destruction or possibly somebody using chemical weapons again, Lavrov said. But such actions will be considered on a separate basis.

“The Security Council would certainly review [any of such reports] to establish the truth as soon as possible, to ensure that those reports are not provocations – and we had plenty of those in the past two years and all of them were aimed at provoking a foreign intervention. If the proof is convincing, the Security Council certainly must take measures against violators,” the minister said.

As for the future resolution on dismantling Syria’s chemical arsenal, it would be a litmus test for the UNSC, Lavrov said.

“We may grab on to Chapter 7 every time somebody claims that the regime or the opposition used chemical weapons and encourage playing on emotions, which is unacceptable when taking serious decisions. Or we may rely on professionals, who must evaluate thoroughly, impartially and objectively every piece of such information and report to the Security Council,” he said.

Russia asks West not to encourage belligerent opposition

Fighters of the jihadist group Al-Nusra Front (AFP Photo)

The Russian and French ministers said they agreed that the goal of the international community now is to gather an international conference in Geneva, which would find a political solution of the crisis and establish a transitional government in Syria.

Lavrov said Moscow is prepared to set a date for such a conference anytime, because the Assad government had agreed to it and presented its delegation. It is the opposition which is dragging its feet and refuses to participate, he stressed.

“The [opposition] National Coalition vocally opposed the Russian-American plan to destroy Syrian chemical weapons… because they were expecting that the problem would be solved through a military intervention. And they were disappointed after the intervention failed to materialize and the issue went to the strictly diplomatically-legal framework,” Lavrov pointed out.

He asked the Western backers of the Syrian opposition, who have leverage on them, to use it and force those forces to participate in the peace conference. He also added that some statements from Russia’s partners regarding personalities in the Syrian government do not help with that goal.

“The more often and louder statements from some capitals, including Washington, European and Middle-Eastern countries come saying that Assad is a criminal and that he has no place on Earth other than at The Hague Tribunal, the more defiant becomes this coalition, which claims the right to represent the entire Syrian people,” he explained.

Kerry insisted that Syria’s future has no place for Bashar Assad on Monday, following his meeting with Fabius and British Foreign Secretary William Hague. He added that Washington expects Assad’s stepping down to be part of a future political resolution agreed on in Geneva. Russia insists that it is up to Syrians to decide the terms of the transition.

Report of contention

Lavrov and Fabian met a day after the UN released a report on the incident, which confirmed that chemical weapons were indeed used on that day in Syria. The inspectors behind the report were not authorized to name a suspected culprit in the attack, and the evidence they presented is now subject to conflicting interpretations.

Several countries, including the US and France, believe the evidence is unquestionably identifies the government of Bashar Assad as the party that carried out the attack. The French minister reiterated Paris’ position in Moscow, adding that French intelligence data points to that conclusion.

Russia insists that the evidence is not conclusive and says the report should be considered along with other information, including accounts from local witnesses and media reports, which indicate that the attack had been carried out by the rebels.

“We asked questions at the Security Council meeting we had after hearing the report findings. The report doesn’t explain whether the munitions used in the attack was produced at a factory or was home-made. It doesn’t answer our other questions. So the document needs careful study in conjunction with other evidence currently available online and in the media,” Lavrov said.

He added Moscow has good reasons to treat the incident as a rebel provocation aimed at drawing the US military into the Syrian conflict. 

UN SC resolution approving OPCW decision should not include use of force provisions

AFP Photo / Mezar Matar
Al Qaeda and Al Nusrah have significant amounts of Sarin

MOSCOW, September 17 (Itar-Tass) – A resolution of the U.N. Security Council, which approves the decision taken by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), will not contain any references to Chapter 7 (over the use of force) of the U.N. Charter, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the negotiations with visiting French counterpart Laurent Fabius here on Tuesday.

“We said about it clearly in Geneva. But it will not contain the U.N. Security Council commitments to control on a regular basis how a decision taken by the OPCW Executive Council is being fulfilled. If there are some cases of refusal from cooperation or some reports about the obstacles from either side or the reports about someone’s use of chemical weapons then the U.N. Security Council will consider this situation,” Lavrov said.

“It will be needed to make it clear whether these reports are a provocative act or not,” Lavrov added. “There are too many of them. All of them were aimed at provoking a foreign intervention. But if convincing data is produced the U.N. Security Council should take proper measures against the violators, these actions will be taken,” he said.

“The Russian-U.S. document holds that we want to focus on those possibilities that are laid down in the Chemical Weapons Convention, particularly Article 8,” Lavrov added. “This article holds that when the organization (OPCW) faces some difficulties in its work to destroy the chemical weapons in a country, it is empowered to address in the U.N. Security Council. Therefore, this link between the professional work of the inspectors, who will be feeling at the site how this is going on, and the U.N. Security Council, which will control progress of their work, will receive regular and urgent information, if some problems arise, will guarantee a quite reliable legal mechanism of supervising this process,” the Russian foreign minister said.

“We should not discuss Chapter 7 or 6 or anything else,” the minister said. “The top task is to fulfill a plan for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons,” he said.

“We call for the Russian-U.S. agreements to be fulfilled and are prepared to promote actively those approaches, which were agreed upon in Geneva in the previous week,” Lavrov added.

“France as other our partners is prepared to support these approaches,” Lavrov noted.

Two scenarios for Syria

Investigation into use of chemical weapons in Syria will become “a litmus test” for further work of the U.N. Security Council, the Minister said.

Russia’s top diplomat said two scenarios lay ahead. These were “Whether we stick to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter and wait until someone states that the current rulers or the opposition used chemical weapons and drag in absolutely impermissible emotions, or rely on professionals who should study each report of this kind in detail and objectively and report to the U.N. Security Council.”

“Moscow still has serious reasons to believe that the use of chemical weapons near Damascus was a provocative act,” he noted.

The UN investigators’ report proved that chemical weapons were used, Lavrov said. “The questions that we had, we asked in the U.N. Security Council. We received no reply – to where the ammunition was produced or to other questions.”

“The report needs to be studied, not separately, but along with all evidence which the internet is full of now,” he added.

Former CIA officials had said in a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama that the August 21 events were staged. “We want these cases to be investigated in an unbiased way; there are reasons to believe that (the bombardment of August 21) was a provocative act,” Lavrov said. The truth should be found. This will be a touchstone for further work of the U.N. Security Council.”

Radical opposition

Syria’s radical opposition has vigorously resisted the Russian-U.S. initiative on disposal of chemical weapons in Syria, Foreign Minister emphasized

“The National Coalition (for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces – Itar-Tass) has vigorously opposed the Russian-U.S. initiative to destroy chemical weapons in Syria through mechanisms of the Chemical Weapons Convention, because it hoped that the problem would be resolved through military intervention,” he said. “They (representatives of the National Coalition) were disappointed that intervention did not take place and the issue was taken to be resolved through purely political and legal means.”

“In our opinion this position is counterproductive and those who exert influence on the coalition and those who have created it and continue to build it up, of course, bear responsibility for this,” Lavrov said.

Russian weapons

Several countries are reluctant to halt the unlicensed production of Soviet weapons, Sergei Lavrov said in reply to a question whether fragments of a missile with Cyrillic inscription were allegedly found in Syria.

“It is necessary to examine the entire scope of factors, including available testimony of those, who visited the area where all this happened,” the minister added.

In the Middle East and North Africa a large amount “of various weapons is circulating,” Lavrov noted. “I saw a photo, a Cyrillic inscription is seen on a piece of ammunition,” he said. “So many weapons have been circulating in this region back from the Soviet times and the recent times,” Lavrov said.

The weapons, which are supplied to Libya in defiance of the U.N. Security Council embargo, are being spread throughout North Africa, “and probably even beyond it, there are some of them in the Central African Republic, Chad and Mauritania,” he added.

Russia calls for “the strictest control of all trade in weapons.” “We are seeking for illegal production of Soviet-era weapons continued in many countries to be halted,” the Russian foreign minister said. “Several EU and NATO states take this as a profitable business and are reluctant to agree on this to be halted,” Lavrov added.

Peace conference

Russia is ready to announce the date for the international conference on Syria dubbed as Geneva II immediately, Lavrov said after talks with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

“We are ready to name the date even tomorrow, even today, because the Syrian government has already expressed its readiness to send its delegation,” he said adding that dynamics reached as a result of the Russian-U.S. meeting in Geneva on September 12-14 would allow to improve the atmosphere for translating a long-standing initiative on a Syria peace conference into reality.