Wed, Sep 18, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Russia, France at odds over ending conflict in Syria

AFP, MOSCOW

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chat yesterday after a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia.

Photo: EPA

Russia and France admitted yesterday they still had differences over how to solve the Syrian conflict ahead of a debate in the UN Security Council over stripping the country of its chemical arsenal.

After meeting in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Laurent Fabius said they had differing visions of how to proceed toward the common goal of a peaceful and chemical weapons-free Syria.

Russia also strongly rejected claims by both France and the US that a UN report released on a sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21 placed the blame with the Syrian government.

Despite sharing the same goal of destroying Syria’s weapons and holding an eventual peace conference, “we have differences over how to achieve it,” Lavrov said.

He added that the UN report “proves that chemical weapons were used,” but does not prove that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind it.

“There is still no answer to the question of where the missile [used in the August 21 attack] was produced,” he said.

There is still a “most serious basis to believe that this was a provocation,” Lavrov said of the attack, calling on world powers not to “play up emotions” when making decisions, but rather “rely on professionals.”

However, Fabius said that the UN report left “no doubt that the Damascus regime was responsible” for the chemical attack.

He said there was a “difference in approach” between France and Russia on the methods required to reach peace, but the two sides were “perfectly agreed” on the need for a political solution.

Lavrov and Fabius met in Moscow a day after France, the US and the UK said they will push for a strong resolution.

Diplomats said France and the UK are preparing a draft that will demand a threat of sanctions if al-Assad does not comply with the chemical disarmament plan.

Lavrov stressed that the agreement he reached with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday meant that the opposition will also be responsible for compliance and that the resolution will not be under the chapter of the UN charter that allows the use of force.

The report by UN experts released on Monday said the attack used sarin gas delivered by surface-to-surface rockets, but did not assign blame to either side.

China, which has voted together with Russia in the past against UN Security Council resolutions spelling out intervention or sanctions in Syria, said yesterday it would be taking a “serious look” at the UN report.

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