Russia ‘regrets’ US decision to shelve Syria talks
Syrian army soldiers are seen deployed in the Jobar neighbourhood of Damascus on August 24, 2013. (AFP Photo)Moscow has voiced “regret” over a US decision to put off bilateral talks over Syria. Russia has sought to placate calls for military action over the alleged use of chemical weapons, saying there is no evidence of the Assad regime’s complicity.
The US government announced it was postponing bilateral talks with Russia late Monday, citing “ongoing consultations” over the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
Russian and American officials had been scheduled to meet in The Hague on Wednesday for bilateral talks on the Syrian conflict.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov tweeted a response to the move Tuesday morning, expressing concern over Washington’s decision.
“It is a pity that our western partners have decided to cancel the bilateral US-Russian meeting to discuss calls for an international conference on Syria,” Gatilov wrote on Twitter. He added in a later post that discussing terms for a political solution were needed now more than ever in the face of possible military intervention in Syria.
Russia on Tuesday warned a military intervention in Syria could have "catastrophic consequences" for the whole region and called on the international community to show "prudence."
"Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. "We are calling on our American partners and all members of the world community to demonstrate prudence (and) strict observance of international law, especially the fundamental principles of the UN Charter," he added.
Foreign Affairs Committee chairman of the Russian Duma, Aleksey Pushkov also posted on his Twitter, alleging the US had already made the decision to strike Syria and they had gone too far.
Russia has no plans to strengthen its fleet in the region at the Mediterranean sea facility, the naval base at Tartus, a source from Russia’s Defense Ministry told Itar-Tass news agency, adding that withdrawal plans have also not been considered. However , the source did not exclude the possibility that one more military vessel might be transferred to the region from Russia’s Black Sea fleet and one nuclear submarine added from the North Sea fleet.
A number of western countries including France, the US and the UK have condemned President Bashar Assad’s government for last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb and called for a response, hinting at possible military action. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told British Prime Minster David Cameron in a phone conversation that there was still no evidence the Assad government was behind the attack.
However, Cameron insisted that Assad’s forces were behind the “chemical weapons” attack, saying that the Syrian opposition did not have the facilities to orchestrate such an attack. Cameron also cited the Syrian government’s delay in allowing a team of UN experts to examine the site as an indication that it had something to hide.
Washington has also seen an increase in rhetoric, urging action against the Assad government. Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the UN, decried the Assad government for the attack on her Twitter account, and demanded accountability.
Meanwhile, the UN weapons inspectors are due to start their second day of investigations in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where the toxic attack happened last Wednesday. The team’s convoy of vehicles came under fire from unknown assailants Monday as they visited the area.
In spite of the sniper attack, the team managed to collect samples for analysis and gather witness testimonies at a local hospital. Contradicting claims from the US and UK that the probe was too late to yield accurate results, the UN stressed the mission was still valid, although almost a week has passed since the supposed attack.
The alleged attack took place last Wednesday in an eastern suburb of Syria’s capital. Media published conflicting reports on the death toll, ranging from “dozens” to over 1,300 dead. French charity Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) put the death toll at about 355.