9th Aug 2022

Russia rejects French UN draft on Syria

  • Lavrov is to meet Kerry on Thursday (Photo: consiilium.europa.eu)

Russia has told France it cannot back a draft UN resolution authorising the use of force if Syria does not give up chemical weapons.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius delivered the news after speaking with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, by phone on Tuesday (10 September).

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"As I understood, the Russians at this stage were not necessarily enthusiastic, and I'm using euphemism, to put all that into the framework of a binding UN resolution," Fabius told press.

Lavrov himself in a statement added: "France’s proposal to accept a Security Council resolution … blaming the Syrian authorities for the possible use of chemical weapons is inadmissible.”

The draft French text, seen by Reuters, "condemns the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities on 21 August 2013" - an allegation denied by the Syrian government.

It calls on Syria to give the UN, in 15 days' time, details of all its chemical weapons facilities, and, later down the line, to "unconditionally destruct, remove or render harmless, under international supervision" its chemical arsenal.

It notes that people responsible for the 21 August attack should face justice at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

It also says that "in the event of non-compliance," the UN will "adopt further necessary measures under Chapter VII," referring to part of the UN charter which authorises military action.

The French paper comes after Russia and Syria on Monday offered to give up Syria's chemical arsenal in order to stop US-led military strikes.

The general idea was endorsed by the EU and by the Arab League on Tuesday.

But France circulated its resolution, which has the backing of the UK and the US - two other veto-holding powers on the UN Security Council - in order to allay fears the Russo-Syrian proposal is a fraud designed to buy time.

Lavrov's rejection of the French text does not mean the idea is defunct, however.

US secretary of state John Kerry is to meet with the Russian foreign minister on Thursday to see how Russia is prepared to guarantee the offer.

French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday morning also convened a special meeting of his security council to discuss the next steps on Syria.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama in a TV speech on Tuesday said he is postponing a Congress vote on military intervention because "this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force."

He noted that "America is not the world’s policeman" and that "I’ve spent four-and-a-half years working to end wars, not to start them," citing withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

But he added: "when with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional."

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