Saturday 31 August 2013

The Russian response to US threats

Washington’s threats to attack Syria unacceptable – Russian Foreign Ministry
Washington’s statements threatening to use military force against Syria unilaterally are unacceptable, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

29 August, 2013

Washington’s threat to use military force against Syria unilaterally is unacceptable, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. He urged the US to wait the results of the UN chemical weapons investigation.

Given the lack of evidence, any unilateral military action bypassing the UN Security Council – “no matter how limited it is” – would be a direct violation of international law and would undermine the prospects for a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria and will lead to a new round of confrontation and victims, Lukashevich concluded.

Instead of executing the decisions of G8’s summit in Lough Erne and subsequent agreements to submit comprehensive report from experts investigating possible cases of use of chemical weapons in Syria to the UN Security Council, in the absence of any evidence, we hear threats of a strike on Syria,” the statement read.

Lukashevich emphasized that even “US allies” wanted to wait for the completion of the UN chemical expert group “in order to get an unbiased picture of what really happened and decide on further steps in terms of the Syrian crisis.”

While the international community has yet to be convinced - the British Parliament rejected a motion authorizing military action in Syria Thursday - Kerry did say the August 21 attack killed 1,429 Syrians, including no less than 426 children. He also said the situation was not the same as Iraq in 2003, a memory that has inspired doubt throughout the UK and the US.

Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-viewed information regarding this attack,” Kerry said. “And I will tell you it has done so more mindful of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment. Accordingly, we have taken unprecedented steps to declassify and make facts available to people who can judge for themselves.”

Syrian troops fire a heavy machine gun mounted on a pick-up truck in the Eastern Ghouta area on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus on August 30, 2013 (AFP Photo / Sam Skaine)

He went on to outline the suspicions on which US leaders have formulated their theory.

We know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons programs in the entire Middle East,” Kerry continued. “We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year, and has used them on a smaller scale but still it has used them against its own people…We know that the regime was specifically determined to rid the Damascus suburbs of the opposition, and it was frustrated that it hadn’t succeeded in doing so.”

No exit polls and preliminary results’

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council may have to wait as long as two weeks before reviewing the final results of an analysis of samples taken from where chemical weapons were used in Syria, diplomats told Reuters on Friday. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned representatives from China, Russia, the United States, Britain, and France, of the time period on the eve of a possible US missile strike on the Syrian regime.

The samples that have been collected will be taken to be analyzed in designated laboratories, and the intention of course is to expedite the analysis of that sampling that's been taken," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky. “This is not an electoral process, where you have exit polls and preliminary results.”

The only result that counts is the result of the analysis in laboratories and the analysis of the evidence that's been collected through witness statements and so on," Nesirky explained, adding that UN inspectors would return later to investigate several other sites of alleged chemical weapon attacks.

A Syrian soldier gives a thumbs-up as he stands on top of a tank alongside two fellow soldiers in the Eastern Ghouta area on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus on August 30, 2013 (AFP Photo / Sam Skaine)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon meanwhile briefed representatives from the Security Council on the ongoing investigation in Syria. Although the envoys of permanent members did not comment on the details, two diplomats told Reuters that analysis of the samples could take up to two weeks, according to Ban.

This news comes after the remaining UN inspectors in Syria have moved up their departure time. Most of the 20 scientists and other UN staff had already left Syria, but a remaining core group scheduled to leave at 7:00 am Saturday instead left at 4:00 am Friday. It was unknown if the early departure was because of an impending US military strike or because of continuing violence in the streets of Damascus.

The UN has received at least 14 reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, Reuters reported, and the team of inspectors arrived on August 18 after months of negotiation. The team, led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, had initially set out to analyze three locations in the Middle Eastern country, but re-prioritized after a chemical weapons strike killed over 1,000 people on August 21.

The team was able to do some preliminary work about the three sites it was initially looking into but it has not been able to conduct onsite visits… basically because this new priority rose up while they were in the country,” UN spokesperson Fahran Haq told Reuters.

The Secretary General does expect to have some form of oral briefing from the investigators once they are out of the country,” Haq continued. “The investigators as currently scheduled expect to wrap up their work by Saturday morning.”

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