DAMASCUS, Syria – Russia insisted Tuesday that a U.N. Security Council resolution governing Syria’s handling of its chemical weapons not allow the use of force, but it suggested that could change if Damascus reneges on the deal to give up its stockpile.
The main Syrian opposition coalition, meanwhile, urged the international community to take swift action against the regime of President Bashar Assad in response to a U.N. finding that the nerve agent sarin was used in a deadly attack near the capital last month.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country “spoke clearly” about rejecting the use of force when the chemical weapons agreement was worked out Saturday in Geneva between Washington and Moscow. The plan calls for an inventory of Syria’s chemical weapons within a week, with all components of the program out of the country or destroyed by mid-2014.
But if signs emerge that Syria is not fulfilling the agreement or there are reports of further chemical weapons use, “then the Security Council will examine the situation,” Lavrov said, suggesting the issue could be reconsidered.
Lavrov made his remarks at a news conference in Moscow with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. France and the U.S. say a military option remained on the table, and they are pushing for the U.N. resolution to reflect that.
Diplomats said the five permanent council members – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France – made little progress at a meeting Tuesday on a draft resolution and would meet again Wednesday.
On Monday, U.N. inspectors submitted a report on the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus that deepened the Syrian crisis. It was the first official confirmation by impartial experts that chemical weapons were used in the attack, which killed hundreds.
The report confirmed that chemical weapons were used but did not ascribe blame, and Lavrov and Fabius differed sharply on their interpretations.