Grounds to believe Syria chemical attack was smart provocation – PutinA handout image released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows smoke above buildings following what Syrian rebels claim to be a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013. (AFP/Shaam News Network)
Russia has every reason to believe that the use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb in August was an adroit and smart provocation, President Vladimir Putin has said.
“We have every grounds to believe that it was a provocation. Of course, it was adroit and smart, but, at the same time, primitive in terms of technical performance. They took an old Soviet-made missile, which was taken out of service in the Syrian army long ago. It was most important to have ‘made in the USSR’ written [on the missile],” Putin said at the Valdai discussion forum on Thursday.
The Russian president pointed out that the August 21st attack in Damascus was not the first time chemical weapons had been used in Syria.
“But why haven’t other cases been investigated?” he asked.
The chemical weapon attack must be thoroughly investigated and those behind it must be identified, Putin told the Valdai Club meeting in Russia’s Novgorod Region.
“No matter how difficult it might be, but if in the end we manage to answer the question… as to who committed that crime – and that was certainly a crime – the next step will follow. Then, together with our colleagues from the United Nations Security Council we will have to define the level of responsibility of those who committed the crime,” Putin said.
He stressed that measures like military strikes cannot solve every international issue, while should also be brought to the UNSC rather than discussed in the US Congress.
“This would be a strike on the world order, not Syria,” the Russian leader said.
‘No 100% guarantees, but Syria makes practical steps’
Putin also said that he cannot be 100 percent certain that the Syrian government will completely fulfill earlier reached agreements on dismantling the republic’s chemical weapons. However, the latest developments have given signs for hope.
“Will it be possible to accomplish it all? I cannot be 100 percent sure about it. But everything we have seen so far gives us confidence that this will be done,” he told journalists and experts.
Earlier this month, Russia and the United States reached a deal on a framework that will see the destruction or removal of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid- 2014. That came after Moscow suggested that Damascus should put its chemical weapons arsenal under international control and the Syrian government accepted the proposal. The republic also agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention which bans the production and the use of such arms.
Speaking at the Valdai gathering, Putin noted that Syria not only agreed to sign the international convention, but announced it already considers itself a party to the treaty.
“These are practical steps that the Syrian government has already made,” Putin said.
The United Nations confirmed last Saturday that it had received all the necessary documents from Syria for joining the chemical weapons convention and that Syria would become a member from October 14.
Russia’s proposal for Syria was voiced as the Congress was readying itself to vote on President Barack Obama’s plan to launch a limited military strike against Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack in August. The US blamed the country’s government for the incident. The decision was put on hold after a suggestion from Moscow, which was discussed in detail by Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.
Putin dismissed allegations by some political analysts at the Valdai Club that Obama’s acceptance of the Russian proposal on Syria was a face-saving move.
“It was not about saving anyone’s face,” he said. “[Obama’s] decision was based on real analysis of the situation. And I am very glad that our positions on the issue have matched,” Putin added.