Divisions over UN statement on Syria



A possible diplomatic resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles seems to have become mired in political debate as Russia differs with France and its allies over a UN resolution.

France said on Tuesday it would submit a UN Security Council resolution calling on Syria to put its chemical weapons beyond use or face “extremely serious” reprisals.

Later an emergency UN Security Council meeting, originally called by Russia for Tuesday, apparently to discuss its own plan for Syria, was cancelled after Russia withdrew the request.

Russia, the main backer of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, opposed the French-drafted resolution and had been expected to propose a weaker Security Council statement, which are largely symbolic statements on the chemical arms crisis.

The main sticking point was that France wanted to invoke Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, making any resolution legally binding and enforceable by military action.

France was backed by the UK and the US in proposing the statement that Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said would threaten “extremely serious” consequences if Syria failed to hand over its banned weapons.

The US administration has said it would not fall victim to stalling tactics, and France’s proposal reportedly outlined a rapid timetable for disarmament.

‘Serious consequences’

Sergey Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, said it would be “unacceptable” for the Security Council to pass a resolution that blames the Assad government for an August 21 chemical-weapons attack near Damascus which prompted a Western threat of military strikes against government forces.

The US, Britain and France accuse the Syrian government of staging the attack, which the US administration says killed more than 1,400 people. 

The Syrian government has blamed opposition fighters for the deaths.

During a roundtable on Tuesday, Lavrov said Russia would send the US ideas on how to secure chemical weapons from Syria.

John Kerry, US secretary of state, said Russian suggestions that the UN endorsement come in the form of a non-binding statement from the rotating president of the Security Council would be unacceptable to the Obama administration.

Fabius had said the resolution would demand that the individuals responsible for the attack be put on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands.

“It will provide for extremely serious consequences in the event of Syria violating its obligations,” Fabius said.

Earlier, French President Francois Hollande and US President Barack Obama agreed in a phone call that they still wanted to keep “all options open”, indicating that military strikes were still on the cards if no progress was made.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has said the disarmament initiative would only be successful if the idea of military intervention was taken off the table. 

has announced that officials have begun talks with the Syrians on a “concrete plan” to put their chemical weapons beyond use.

“We [Russia] are currently working on preparing a workable, precise and concrete plan and for this there are literally right now, in these minutes, contacts with the Syrian side,” Lavrov said in Moscow.

“And we expect to present this plan soon and we will be ready to work on it with the UN secretary-general, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, with the participation of members of the UN Security Council.”

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s defence minister, said Russia’s initiative demonstrated that international pressure backed by the threat of military action had worked, but he cautioned that Syria had to act swiftly to prove its good faith.

Syrian opponents of the Assad regime denounced the Russian move as a  “political manoeuvre” designed to avert strikes and create division within the international community – a view that was widely echoed by commentators across Europe.

Selim Idriss, head of the opposition Free Syrian Army, said on Monday that Assad and the Russians could not be trusted.

Source: Aljazeera, Agencies

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