MOSCOW, September 10 (RIA Novosti) – Russia will soon put forward a “workable” plan for placing Syrian chemical weapons under international control, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday, following up on a day-old Russian proposal that has shifted the international debate on military intervention in war-torn Syria.
“The Russian side is currently busy preparing a workable, clear, concrete plan,” Lavrov told reporters, adding that Moscow is in contact with Syrian officials “for this [purpose] literally at this minute.” He also said Russia expects the plan to be ready “in the near future” for finalization with input from the UN secretary general, the UN Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
A day earlier, Lavrov had added an unexpected twist to the Syria debate when he announced that Moscow would push Damascus to accept an off-the-cuff proposal voiced Monday by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said that a US strike against Syrian targets could be averted if Damascus put “every single bit” of its chemical weapons under international control by week’s end. Syria’s foreign minister, in Moscow for talks, responded by saying that Damascus “welcomes” the Russian initiative.
Washington is currently contemplating a strike on Syria as retaliation for a deadly August 21 chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs, which it has attributed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad; official Damascus, in turn, has blamed the attack on rebel forces, and Russia has tentatively backed its long-time ally, while calling for further investigation.
Lavrov said Tuesday that the plan to place chemical weapons under international control should not be seen as a substitute for probes into all reports of chemical attacks in Syria.
“The truth must be established and the guilty must bear responsibility,” he said at a press conference after meeting with visiting Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz.
A number of prominent international figures, including US President Barack Obama, have expressed tentative optimism about Russia’s proposal.
Obama on Monday called the proposal “potentially positive” but cautioned that it could be an attempt to stall US pressure on Syria.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had been considering putting a similar proposal to the UN Security Council. Britain and Germany, which have opted not to take part in military action against Syria, have likewise welcomed the Russian initiative.