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Conflict & Tragedy

Lavrov accuses US of blackmailing Russia to approve military force in Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is accusing the US of threatening to withdraw support for Syria's entry into the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) if Russia does not agree to a UN resolution under "Chapter 7" that would allow military intervention in Syria.

According to Russia Today, Lavrov said in an interview, “Our American partners are starting to blackmail us: 'If Russia does not support a resolution under Chapter 7, then we will withdraw our support for Syria’s entry into the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).' This is a complete departure from what I agreed with Secretary of State John Kerry."

The US and Russia had agreed after negotiations concluded earlier in Geneva on a UN Security Council resolution that would allow punitive measures against Syria but which excludes military action if the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad fails to comply with the terms of the agreement to hand over its chemical munitions.

Kerry and Lavrov also agreed that the punitive measures under "Chapter 7" will require approval of the 16-nation UN Security Council.

Speaking at a news conference following conclusion of the US-Russia accord in Geneva, Kerry said the US and Russia had reached an agreement on the procedure for requesting a resolution under "Chapter 7" for punitive measures against Syria if the need arises.

However, Lavrov was careful to stress that the terms of the agreement restricted use of a "Chapter 7" resolution by excluding military action.

Speaking in an interview Sunday, Lavrov said he was surprised that the US was now pressuring Russia to agree to a resolution that will allow military intervention in Syria. He described the Western approach to the Syrian crisis as "negligent."

He alleged that the primary interest of the US was regime change in Syria and not peaceful resolution of the conflict.

He said, "They see in the US-Russian deal not a chance to save the planet from significant quantities of chemical weapons in Syria, but as a chance to do what Russia and China will not allow, namely to push through a resolution involving (the threat of) force against the regime and shielding the opposition."

Referring to Libya and Iraq, Lavrov argued that Western intervention in Syria could only destabilize the region.

He said, "Our partners are blinded by an ideological mission for regime change. They cannot admit they have made another mistake.”

He said that if the US was sincere in wishing for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict it would be interested to see Syria enter into the OPCW rather than using it as a bargaining chip to secure a resolution for military intervention.

Lavrov urged the US and its allies not to violate international laws and to stop seeking resolutions that promote selfish "geopolitical ambitions."

He also pointed out the need for opposition forces to be involved in the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. He explained that it might not be possible to decommission all stockpiles of chemical weapons in Syria because the US was not "telling the whole story" by claiming that only the Syrian government possesses chemical weapons.

He said that information previously provided by the Israelis show that some of the chemical weapons might have fallen into the hands of the opposition forces.

According to Lavrov, the task of dismantling Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles and facilities would require that the allies of the opposition groups demand that they also hand over their chemical weapons.

The Russian foreign minister warned that Russia was not acting as guarantor for Syria in the effort to destroy its chemical weapons stocks. Syria's duty to handover its chemical weapons is stated under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) administered by the OPCW.

He said he thought that the timeframe for elimination of Syria's chemical weapons was realistic. He noted that Assad's $1 billion estimate of the cost of dismantling his regime's stockpiles was higher than estimates made during negotiations in Geneva.

Lavrov said it would be possible to reconcile the discrepancies when OPCW experts carry out on-the-ground assessment in Syria.