No country can usurp right to judge chemical weapons use – Lavrov

Only a joint UN response can be productive in addressing the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said. He denounced lobbying of the use of force by a certain group of countries as ineffective and extremely dangerous.

With the tragic situation in Syria and “ambiguous” developments in the Middle East and Northern Africa on the whole, there is an “urgent task to agree upon collective responses to the key issues of today,” which is “solely within the power of such a truly universal organization as the UN,” Russian Foreign Minister stressed during his speech at the 68th session of UN General Assembly on Friday.

Calling the use of chemical weapons by any party “unacceptable,” Lavrov said that it “does not mean… one can usurp the right to accuse and pass verdicts,” stressing that all the related incidents in Syria “must be investigated in a professional and unbiased manner and then examined by the UN Security Council exclusively on the basis of facts, rather than allegations and assumptions.”

The minister in particular noted a worrying tendency for using the argument that the use of force could be “the most effective method to address international problems, including settlement of internal conflicts,” contrary to the UN Charter.

Despite the fact that all the recent experience has proven that military interventions are “ineffective, meaningless and destructive,” there have been “attempts to extrapolate such an approach also to the situation in Syria,” Lavrov said.

According to the minister, “this is an extremely dangerous path leading to the erosion of the foundations of today’s world order and subversion of the WMD non-proliferation regimes.”

Lavrov has expressed hopes that a peace conference to implement the Geneva Communiqué, commonly referred to as Geneva-2, will be called as soon as possible, adding that Russia is “vigorously working” on the matter.

“People continue to die and peaceful civilians suffer every day in Syria. The religious minorities, including Christian communities, are becoming victims of the conflict, which is increasingly acquiring a sectarian character. Virtually the only possibility today to put an end to this turmoil is to move from a deadlock the process of political settlement of the Syrian crisis,” Lavrov said.

Bodies laid out on the ground in a makeshift morgue as Syrian rebels claim they were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013.(AFP Photo / Shaam News Network)

Lavrov has criticized attempts to impose the opinion on “legitimate” leaders of the MENA countries, saying that the simplified vision of the situation in the region promoted by certain states also obscures the problem of extremism.

“The desire to portray in a simplified way the developments in the Arab World as the struggle of democracies against tyrannies or the good against the evil has long obscured the problems associated with the rising wave of extremism which spills over to other regions today as well. The terrorist attacks in Kenya have demonstrated all the gravity of this threat,”
the minister said.

While, according to Lavrov, it is “common knowledge” that jihadist groups comprising of international extremists make up the most combat-capable units of the Syrian opposition, the minister said that the policy of fighting such groups in Mali and supporting them in Syria at the same time “is hard to call as far-sighted.”

The Syrian crisis should also not overshadow the task of solving the Palestinian problem, Lavrov said. While recognizing the US efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian settlement, the Russian Foreign Minister said it is also necessary to intensify the activity of the Quartet and to ensure a close involvement of the Arab countries in the talks.

Negotiations are the only means possible in addressing the situations around the Iranian nuclear program and the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, Lavrov stressed. Quoting Russian President Vladimir Putin, the minister urged to “stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”

This would help improve the international environment and foster the collective efforts to counter global terrorism and drug trafficking, Lavrov said. These two pressing challenges would be top-priority tasks during Russia’s G8 presidency in 2014, he added.