UNSC resolution on Syria won’t be under Chapter 7 allowing use of force - Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius have a meeting in the Russian Foreign Ministry's mansion (RIA Novosti / Eduard Pesov)
The resolution that the UN Security Council is to adopt in support of the plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons won’t refer to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, regulating the use of military force on behalf of the council, Sergey Lavrov says.

The foreign minister explained Russia’s position on the future document after meeting his French counterpart Laurent Fabius in Moscow.

The resolution, Lavrov stressed, is meant only to affirm the support of the UNSC to the roadmap for destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile, which will be penned by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

It will also outline measures which fall outside of the OPCW authority, particularly providing security for the organization’s inspectors, who would oversee the process on the ground in Syria. But the resolution would not include any references to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which grants the Security Council a right to use military force to restore peace, Lavrov stressed.

“The resolution of the Security Council, which will approve the decision of the OPCW executive council, will not be over Chapter 7. We said it distinctly in Geneva and the document that we agreed on says no single word about it,” Lavrov said.

Russia has brokered a deal under which the Syrian government agreed to scrap its chemical weapons arsenal to defuse tension that sparked after a sarin gas attack on August 21. The agreement, prepared by Russia and the US, put on hold American plans to use military force against Syria over the attack, which Washington blames on Damascus.

Earlier US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Russia is committed to imposing Chapter 7 measures in case of Syria’s non-compliance with its obligation to destroy its chemical weapons. Lavrov explained that the Security Council would be closely monitoring OPCW’s mission in Syria and will take action, if it finds concrete proof that some party is actively undermining the process.

The UNSC would act on such occurrences, which may be Syria drawing away from the deal, some other party hampering the destruction or possibly somebody using chemical weapons again, Lavrov said. But such actions will be considered on a separate basis.

“The Security Council would certainly review [any of such reports] to establish the truth as soon as possible, to ensure that those reports are not provocations – and we had plenty of those in the past two years and all of them were aimed at provoking a foreign intervention. If the proof is convincing, the Security Council certainly must take measures against violators,” the minister said.

As for the future resolution on dismantling Syria’s chemical arsenal, it would be a litmus test for the UNSC, Lavrov said.

“We may grab on to Chapter 7 every time somebody claims that the regime or the opposition used chemical weapons and encourage playing on emotions, which is unacceptable when taking serious decisions. Or we may rely on professionals, who must evaluate thoroughly, impartially and objectively every piece of such information and report to the Security Council,” he said.

Russia asks West not to encourage belligerent opposition

The Russian and French ministers said they agreed that the goal of the international community now is to gather an international conference in Geneva, which would find a political solution of the crisis and establish a transitional government in Syria.

Lavrov said Moscow is prepared to set a date for such a conference anytime, because the Assad government had agreed to it and presented its delegation. It is the opposition which is dragging its feet and refuses to participate, he stressed.

“The [opposition] National Coalition vocally opposed the Russian-American plan to destroy Syrian chemical weapons… because they were expecting that the problem would be solved through a military intervention. And they were disappointed after the intervention failed to materialize and the issue went to the strictly diplomatically-legal framework,” Lavrov pointed out.

He asked the Western backers of the Syrian opposition, who have leverage on them, to use it and force those forces to participate in the peace conference. He also added that some statements from Russia’s partners regarding personalities in the Syrian government do not help with that goal.

“The more often and louder statements from some capitals, including Washington, European and Middle-Eastern countries come saying that Assad is a criminal and that he has no place on Earth other than at The Hague Tribunal, the more defiant becomes this coalition, which claims the right to represent the entire Syrian people,” he explained.

Kerry insisted that Syria’s future has no place for Bashar Assad on Monday, following his meeting with Fabius and British Foreign Secretary William Hague. He added that Washington expects Assad’s stepping down to be part of a future political resolution agreed on in Geneva. Russia insists that it is up to Syrians to decide the terms of the transition.

Report of contention

Lavrov and Fabian met a day after the UN released a report on the incident, which confirmed that chemical weapons were indeed used on that day in Syria. The inspectors behind the report were not authorized to name a suspected culprit in the attack, and the evidence they presented is now subject to conflicting interpretations.

Several countries, including the US and France, believe the evidence is unquestionably identifies the government of Bashar Assad as the party that carried out the attack. The French minister reiterated Paris’ position in Moscow, adding that French intelligence data points to that conclusion.

Russia insists that the evidence is not conclusive and says the report should be considered along with other information, including accounts from local witnesses and media reports, which indicate that the attack had been carried out by the rebels. 

“We asked questions at the Security Council meeting we had after hearing the report findings. The report doesn’t explain whether the munitions used in the attack was produced at a factory or was home-made. It doesn’t answer our other questions. So the document needs careful study in conjunction with other evidence currently available online and in the media,” Lavrov said.

He added Moscow has good reasons to treat the incident as a rebel provocation aimed at drawing the US military into the Syrian conflict.