Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has commented on the UK’s claims of Moscow’s alleged involvement in Sergei Skripal’s poisoning, US threats to attack Syrian government forces and his view on the de-escalation zones in Syria.
Lavrov has stated that the UK should abide by the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and provide Russia with access to the samples of the nerve-agent which was allegedly used to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
“As soon as the rumors, fed by the British leadership, about the fact that the substance produced in Russia was involved in the poisoning of Skripal appeared, we immediately requested access to this substance so that our experts could analyze it in accordance with the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said at a news conference.
The minister stressed that the UK’s obligations under the Convention imply that if there are any suspicions that a poisonous substance prohibited by the Convention was used, then the state suspected of producing it needs to be contacted, since this state has the right to receive access to the substance in order to analyze it on its own. However, Moscow has not received any requests of this kind from London, according to the diplomat.
Lavrov noted that Moscow had requested access to all the facts and documents connected with the investigation, since one of the victims is Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen. According to the minister, Russia’s demands were rejected by the UK.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson, in turn, said that Russian response would be considered by National Security Council on Wednesday and before then London was not going to comment.
On Monday, May said that Russia was “highly likely” responsible for the suspected poisoning of Skripal. May said that the substance, used in the incident, was identified as a military-grade nerve agent from the so-called Novichok group developed in Russia.
The UK delegation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons also told the organization’s executive council that it was “highly likely” that Russia was implicated in the use of chemical weapons, “whether by failure to control its own materials or by design.”
In turn, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has described the prime minister’s remarks as a “circus show in the UK’s Parliament.”
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious last week on a bench at a shopping center in Salisbury. Both of them remain in critical condition and are being treated for suspected exposure to a chemical substance. UK police and MI5 Security Service would carry out an inquiry into the allegations of Russian state involvement in a number of deaths in the United Kingdom, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd said.
Consequences of Possible US Strike on Syria’s Government Troops ‘Would Be Very Serious’
Commenting on the threats from the US to attack Syrian government troops, the minister said that “if there is another strike of this kind, the gravest consequences will follow.”
Lavrov also told the journalists that after the reports of a chemical attack in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 appeared he received a phone call from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who asked for help in getting access for experts to the scene. “We agreed with Damascus that such access would be granted. When we gave this information to Washington, they said that “it was no longer necessary” and immediately conducted a strike,” the minister added.
The statement comes a day after US Envoy to UN Nikky Haley threatened a Washington strike against Damascus in the case of chemical weapons’ use in Syria. According to Haley, the United States struck at the Shairat airbase, after a chemical attack in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017, as the UN Security Council “was unable to take action.”
Earlier in the day, the Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said that Moscow had reliable information about militants preparing to falsify a government chemical attack against civilians. He noted that “in several districts of Eastern Ghouta, a crowd had been assembled with women, children and old people, brought in from other regions, who were to represent the victims of the chemical incident.”
On March 12, Syrian government forces found a clandestine workshop for the manufacture of chemical munitions while sweeping through the village of Aftris in Eastern Ghouta after militants withdrew from the community.
On February 26, the Anadolu Agency reported that the infamous White Helmets, who have constantly falsified facts and information, claimed that the Syrian Government had deployed chlorine gas against the town of Al-Shifoniya in Eastern Ghouta.
When commenting on allegations of the Syrian army’s use of chlorine in Eastern Ghouta, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that they are aimed at justifying an attack on Damascus.
Damascus has constantly denied being in possession of chemical weapons, the destruction of which had been confirmed by the OPCW report.
On De-escalation Zones in Syria
Lavrov expressed doubt that it’s necessary to increase the number of de-escalation zones in Syria, since it would be more helpful to focus on the ceasefire regime in the safe zones and especially in Eastern Ghouta.
According to the minister, the issue of de-escalation zones will be discussed at the meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey on March 16 in Astana.
The ceasefire regime was introduced across Syria after on February 24, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2401 which urges all conflicting parties to immediately stop all hostilities and adhere to a long-term humanitarian pause in Syria in order to ensure the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, as well as medical evacuation of those injured. Russia also proposed an initiative of organizing a five-hour daily humanitarian pause to ensure humanitarian supplies and evacuations from the area.
In September 2017, three states, acting as the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire — Turkey, Iran and Russia — announced the creation of four safe zones in Syria: in the south along the border with Jordan, in Eastern Ghouta, to the north of Homs and in the Idlib province. The sides also reached agreement on the rules of operation in buffer zones, checkpoints and observation posts, as well as the rules of engagement for units of the de-escalation control force.
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