– Lavrov convenes urgent press conference on Syria (Interfax, AUg 26, 2013):
RUSSIA-LAVROV-SYRIA-BRIEFING MOSCOW. Aug 26 (Interfax) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold an urgent press conference on Monday on the latest developments in and around Syria.
– Assad, Lavrov, speak out to avert military action in Syria (Voice of Russia, Aug 26, 2013):
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed western claims his regime used chemical weapons as an “insult to common sense”, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that any military action in Syria without total UN sanction would be a “very grave violation of international law”.
In an emergency press conference on Monday, Lavrov said:
“They (the West) have not been able to come up with any proof but are saying at the same time that the red line has been crossed and there can be no delay,” Lavrov said, adding that calls for military action “contradicted” agreements from the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.
“Using force without the approval of the UN Security Council is a very grave violation of international law,” he said.
His comments came after UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said also on Monday that an international response in Syria was possible without unanimous UN Security Council backing.
“Is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity on the UN Security Council? I would argue yes,” he told the BBC.
UN member Russia has consistently held out against military action in Syria.
UN inspection delayed by sniper shots
Unidentified snipers shot at UN experts on Monday, forcing them to delay by a few hours their attempt to investigate claims that chemical weapons had been used near Damascus, a UN spokesman said.
“The first vehicle of the chemical weapons investigation team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.
No injuries were reported.
The UN inspectors had been granted access by President Assad to the site of last week’s suspected chemical weapons attack.
On Sunday, Hague had said that any evidence that did exist in the environs of last week’s attack may have been compromised in the intervening days.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Western claims his regime used chemical weapons were an “insult to common sense” and warned the United States it faced failure if it attacked, in an interview with Russian newspaper Izvestia published on Monday.
Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone call on Sunday that Moscow was “deeply alarmed” by comments from US officials indicating a readiness to intervene in Syria in the wake of accusations the regime had used chemical weapons, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Sergei Lavrov drew attention to the extremely dangerous consequences of a possible new military intervention for the whole Middle East and North Africa region,” it added.
Lavrov told Kerry that it appeared certain elements inside the United States wanted to launch military action in Syria outside of the United Nations to undermine joint US-Russia efforts to organise a peace conference.
The Russian minister urged his US counterpart “to refrain from using military pressure against Damascus and not to give into provocations.”
The ministry said Kerry promised to “attentively” study the arguments of the Russian side.
Russia underlined the necessity of an objective UN investigation into the claimed chemical attack and repeated its doubts that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad was to blame.
“There is mounting evidence that the incident was a pretence set up by the rebel opposition with the aim of accusing the Damascus government of everything,” the statement said..
Chemical weapons claims are “nonsense”, says Assad
“The comments (accusing the regime of using chemical weapons) made by politicians in the West and other countries are an insult to common sense… It is nonsense,” Assad said in the Izvestia interview.
Assad accused the United States of first making the accusations that his regime used chemical weapons in an attack outside Damascus that activists say killed hundreds, and only later starting to look for proof.
He said the frontline in the area where the incident took place was not clear and the Syrian regime would have risked killing its own army forces if it used chemical weapons.
“This contradicts elementary logic,” Assad said.
“Such accusations are completely political and the reason for them is a number of victories by the government forces against the terrorists.”
He said it is “not us but our enemies who are using chemical weapons.”
Assad urges governments to listen to their people
With calls mounting for military action against Syria, Assad warned western states to stop interfering in the affairs of other countries and instead “listen to the opinion of the people”.
“If someone is dreaming of making Syria a puppet of the West, then this will not happen.
“We are an independent state, we will fight against terrorism and we will build relations with whom we want for the good of the Syrian people.”
US war record
He warned the United States against attacking Syria and argued Washington’s previous military campaigns in recent years had always fallen short of their aims.
“The United States faces failure just like in all the previous wars they waged, starting with Vietnam and up to our days,” he said.
“America has taken part in many wars but could not once achieve its political goals for which the wars were started. Yes, it is true, the great powers can wage wars but can they win them?” he asked.
Asked about Russia’s contract to deliver Damascus with S-300 missile systems, Assad said that “all contracts agreed with Russia are being fulfilled.”
“Russia is supplying Syria with what is needed to protect Syria and its people,” he said.
Assad said Qatar was a “sponsor of terrorists” while Turkey “trains and provides corridors for them”.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, was a country “which only has money and someone who has just money cannot create a civilised society,” Assad said.
Asked about the chances of organising the so-called Geneva-2 peace conference backed by Russia and the United States, Assad replied: “We cannot start a political dialogue until the support from abroad for terrorism is halted.”