27 Aug (LPAC) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday held a previously unscheduled press conference, to speak to “what is happening in and around Syria.” Opening it, he stated the Russian government’s position: “We are extremely concerned about the current situation. Hysteria is brimming over and a confrontation is being incited over allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on August 21 in Huta. Under this pretext, there is a massive buildup of military assets in the region, as well as calls and even threats to use military force against the Bashar al-Assad regime. Washington, London, and Paris are officially stating that they have incontrovertible information and proof that the Syrian authorities are guilty. They cannot now produce such proof, yet they are saying more and more loudly that a ‘red line’ has been crossed and that there must be to further delay.”
Lavrov said that these statements run counter to the G8’s Loch Erne agreement that any accusations about chemical weapons use should be meticulously investigated by the United Nations. Concerning the recent incident, Lavrov said that such investigation must include the numerous reports circulating in the Internet, such as charges that the chemical-attack photos appeared online before it was supposed to have happened. He questioned why the Western powers have suddenly become so concerned about the preservation of evidence, in contrast to the lack of such concern last March when insurgents fired a poison-loaded missile in Khan al-Asal.
Like many Russian officials and commentators, Lavrov asked what interest the Assad government would have had in using chemical weapons at the very moment it had welcomed the UN expert mission of Ake Sellstrom to Damascus. He said it was also suspicious at the coincidence of the chemical attack with Russian-American preparations for their latest consultations on convening a Geneva Conference. “On the whole, the course of events confirms that the minute the slightest chance appears of a political settlement process taking hold, attempts are made at regime change by force, in order to subvert these chances.” Lavrov reviewed a chronology showing the willingness of the Syrian government to take part in talks for a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in the country.
The Russian foreign minister described his call to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging coordinated efforts to bring all parties in Syria into a peace process. This is far preferable, he added, to “what we have experienced in the cases of Iraq and Libya. In no instance has armed outside intervention led to the restoration of security or the improvement of life for a country, or to stabilization of the region as a whole. On the contrary, the region has now been destabilized to a practically unprecedented degree.”
Asked whether Russia has a “Plan B”, including military action, in the event the West intervenes unilaterally, Lavrov replied: “The use of force without UNSC authorization is a gross violation of international law. … I underscore again that, even if we set aside the legal and moral side of the matter, the specific consequences of outside intervention, not sanctioned by the international community, can only lead to a sharp deterioration of the situation in a country that supposedly needs to be saved from dictatorship so that democracy may be established. I have heard with great alarm the statements coming from Paris and London, that NATO could intervene to destroy chemical weapons in Syria without UNSC authorization. This is a very dangerous and slippery path, and one onto which our Western partners have already stepped several times. I hope that common sense may still prevail.”
Lavrov said that “the true motives of our Western partners are difficult to understand,” given the outcomes of intervention in Iraq and Libya. He said he had asked Kerry directly, “What is your plan?” but that the latter’s reply had been “narrow” — another demand for Russia and China to help stop the spread of chemical weapons.
A couple of years ago, Lavrov said, leaders in the West were constantly demanding that Russia and China get onto “the right side of history,” referring to democratization. “Somehow, for the last six months or year, I don’t remember anybody talking about ‘the right side of history’ any more.” The outcome of the unrest in the Middle East is unpredictable, said Lavrov, but “if somebody conceived of this as a process of ‘managed chaos,’ only the second of those two words remains.” He said that even if there is no “plot” behind all the West’s activities in the region, the current apparently ad hoc policies, instead of “the comprehensive and logical policy that is needed,” are leading to crazy decisions: “As I told my friend [French Foreign Minister] L. Fabius, the French in Mali helped fight against terrorist groups, which the French themselves had armed and supported in Libya.”
Lavrov reported that Kerry had promised, after their “lengthy” conversation on Aug. 25, “to study our arguments carefully once again.” The foreign minister’s press conference included detailed discussion of many specific political elements of the Syrian political situation, as well as evidence and contradictions involved in the Aug. 21 chemical attack.