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Chemical weapons held by all sides in Syria should be destroyed – Lavrov

Published time: September 24, 2013 22:57
Edited time: September 25, 2013 00:01
nited States Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York September 24, 2013. (Reuters/Eric Thayer)

nited States Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York September 24, 2013. (Reuters/Eric Thayer)

During a “constructive” meeting on the sidelines of UNGA, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have agreed to continue pushing towards destruction of “all” chemical weapons in Syria under international supervision.

“There are some serious concerns that the Syrian opposition may possess components of chemical weapons,” Lavrov told the press after the meeting with his counterpart. “All chemical weapons must be destroyed  in Syria including hazardous materials in possession of the opposition,” he was quoted by Interfax.

Lavrov also stressed that work on the UN Security Council resolution on Syria will be conducted “within a framework that had been agreed between Russia and US in Geneva.”

Russia hopes that the UN Security Council resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons will be adopted immediately after the decision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague in the coming days.   

"The talks were productive. We have a common understanding of how to move forward,” Lavrov said.  He also stressed that "the OPCW plays a major role in these matters." His counterpart John Kerry agreed saying, “we had a very constructive meeting.”

"We are proceeding based on facts. And the facts are that the Syrian government has signed the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, immediately expressed its willingness to meet its obligations under this document and provided a declaration to the OPCW on their stockpiles of chemical weapons and their locations," the Russian Foreign Minister said.

According to Lavrov, the sideline discussions with Kerry touched on many issues, but the main topic of discussion was the UN Security Council resolution in support of the OPCW decision.

One of the main sticking points is a possible Security Council resolution that would include possibility of the use of force under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.  Russia as well as China have continually opposed the inclusion of any such reference in a draft UN resolution.

Meanwhile, UN chemical weapons inspectors are to return to Syria on Wednesday to continue their mission, says Russia. 

“We are satisfied that our persistent calls for the return of the UN inspectors for an investigation of the previous episodes have finally borne fruit,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the Russian parliament.

The experts were sent to investigate several cases of alleged use of chemical weapons, but their work was disrupted by the August 21 attack, which killed an estimated 1,400 people. The team was redirected to the location of the new incident to conduct a probe and produce an intermediate report on it. 

But Moscow is unhappy with the direction the US is steering the Russian-brokered plan to dismantle the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons.

“US officials compromised on chemical weapons, but they continue talking about how ‘the Syrian regime’, as they call it, is guilty of the use of chemical weapons without providing comprehensive proof. They constantly voice reservations that the plan to punish Damascus up to a military intervention is still in power,” he said.

Russia criticized the intermediate report presented at the UN last week, which some Western countries took as blaming the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack. Moscow says the evidence is not conclusive and argued that a more comprehensive assessment of the situation would prove that Syrian rebels could have been involved in both this and previous attacks.