DEPUTY Prime Minister and Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Walid al-Moallem, has announced that the Syrian Arab Republic welcomes the proposal of the Russian leadership based on the commitment of the Syrian leadership to ensure the safety of its citizens and the security of its territories and based on confidence in the Russian leadership which is seeking to prevent US aggression on the Syrian people.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed on Monday that Russia is doing its best to prevent war in Syria and to take the path of a peaceful solution to the crisis.
In a joint press conference, after talks with al-Moallem in Moscow, Lavrov urged the US to focus its efforts on finding a peaceful solution through convening the intended international conference in Geneva, instead of preparing the scenario of war.
He warned that the use of force would incur ‘an orgy’ of the terrorists’ activities in Syria and the rest of the region’s countries, and a very high increase in the number of refugees, adding that this is already happening following US President Barack Obama’s statement.
He noted that Russia’s assessments in this regard are shared by ‘statesmen and politicians all over the world’.
And he pointed out that al-Moallem’s visit came in time ‘to hold deliberations and exchange views about our positions with the aim of not allowing the occurrence of aggression against Damascus.’
Lavrov said that despite the seriousness of the latest situation, ‘we and our partners are convinced of the existence of peaceful means to politically settle the crisis in Syria.’
The Russian Foreign Minister called for an investigation into all the possible cases of chemical weapons use in Syria, reiterating that the leaders of the G8 Summit, held last June in Northern Ireland, had agreed that ‘all information and news in this regard should be investigated in a professional and objective way’ and the results be submitted to the Security Council ‘to make the necessary conclusions’.
Lavrov said it is important that the statement of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, comes in time for the expert team investigating chemical weapons use to return to Syria and finish their mission, according to the concluded agreements.
He said Russia is keen on abiding by international legitimacy and is working to implement the agreements reached at the last G8 Summit regarding a call to ‘the government and opposition to exert all efforts to expel the terrorists.’
Lavrov stressed that Syria has given a positive response to this call and expressed its readiness to do so.
And that Syria has also expressed readiness to participate in the international conference ‘Geneva 2’ so as to try to find a common stance with the opposition in line with the final statement of Geneva 1.
‘We expect that the opposition representatives will issue similar statements in accordance with the joint Russian-American initiative last May 7th,’ said Lavrov.
‘We urge our American counterparts to focus their efforts on these moves exactly, and not on preparing the scenario of war,’ he added.
Lavrov asserted that Russia will continue, through the international institutions in charge and through bilateral channels, to deliver support and humanitarian aid to the Syrian people in the affected areas.
He pointed out that a final settlement for the aggravated humanitarian situation in Syria can only be achieved after reaching a political settlement and with the rejection of the option of force.
For his part, Foreign Minister al-Moallem renewed Syria’s gratitude for the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his efforts to prevent an aggression on Syria.
‘History’s judgement will be that the president who seeks to prevent war and make peace is stronger than the president who seeks war, because history has taught us that the first victims of all the wars that happened were children and women.’
And he affirmed that Syria will fully cooperate with Russia in order to protect its people, children and country, questioning the US officials’ pretexts of chemical weapons use.
Al-Moallem said that if the US’s motives were really concern about the use of chemical weapons ‘then we say that the diplomatic channels to resolve this issue have not been exhausted.
‘However, if the goal of this aggression on Syria, and this is what we think it is, is to strike the capabilities of the Syrian Arab Army in favour of al-Qaeda and its arms in Syria, like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham Brigade, and the Islamic State in Iraq, and al-Sham, then this is another matter,’ al-Moallem added.
And he questioned the US’s real interest in launching an aggression in Jabhat al-Nusra’s favour ‘in a “powder-keg region”.
‘We are asking ourselves how Obama can support those who in their time blew up the World Trade Centre in New York,’ he told the press conference, wondering if the US had learned nothing from what happened in Afghanistan when it supported Al Qaeda in the 1980s and ended up fighting it there now, asking if the US wants to make Syria a base for Al Qaeda from which to move to neighbouring countries.
Al-Moallem extended greetings to the American people for their awareness and support for Syria against war.
He also greeted Pope Francis for his prayers for peace in Syria, and the European peoples whose majority had stood against the aggression, referring to what happened in the British House of Commons as an example.
In this context, al-Moallem slammed Obama for his claims of democracy while he not listening to the majority of his people.
Responding to a question on the discussions between the two Ministers on Monday, Lavrov said that they discussed the alarming current situation and steps to stabilise the polticial process, stressing that the Geneva conference can’t be held yet, not because of Russia or Syria, but because the opposition coalition, which the US and other countries view as the main representative of the opposition, doesn’t want the conference to be held.
Lavrov said that Russia has been in contact with all opposition groups and will continue to try and convince them to participate in an international conference, adding that nobody is excluded in this initiative as the invitation is open to everyone who supports peace and a political solution in Syria, and rejects war and strikes.
He affirmed the importance of launching dialogue among all Syrians, and that Russia is convinced that there can be no alternative to a dialogue-based political settlement, adding that he and al-Moallem agreed to continue working to bring back the UN experts to Syria to finish their investigation of all reports of chemical weapons use.
‘The Secretary-General announced that he intends to send the UN experts back to Syria as soon as possible – we have some doubts about that, but in any case, we will insist and attempt to make this happen,’ Lavrov said, adding that the Syrian government wants and even insists on this happening, noting that he perceived, during talks and discussions, that Syrian officials are taking highly responsible stances.
In response to the same question, al-Moallem said that Syria is ready to hold the Geneva conference without preconditions, and for dialogue with all forces in Syria working for peace, affirming readiness to receive the chemical weapons investigation committee and to cooperate with Russia to dismantle any excuses for aggression.
On whether there are international investigations of the crimes committed by armed groups in Syria, Lavrov said that there are many testimonies and evidence to these crimes, including videos, available on the internet, in addition to the opinions of experts like Carla del Ponte, saying that all these facts should result in something.
In this context, al-Moallem affirmed that Syria directed more than 400 letters documenting these crimes to the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General, and that whenever Russia’s representative at the Security Council presented a statement to condemn a massacre, he was foiled each time by US or British or French rejection.
‘I say it frankly: we don’t need to exert efforts to expose these massacres, as terrorists record them on their websites and boast about them,’ al-Moallem said.
Responding to a question on an envelope delivered by Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad to the investigation committee, al-Moallem said that the envelope contained a copy of a letter sent to the UN Secretary-General requesting investigation of three sites in al-Ghouta area where terrorists used chemical weapons, adding ‘regrettably, the committee was withdrawn before investigating their sites . . . we hope they will come again, and this is why I welcomed their coming again.’
On the prospects of holding the Geneva conference if there are strikes on Syria, the possibility of responding to strikes, and reports of a deal through a letter sent by the US to Syria through the G20, Lavrov said that efforts will continue to prevent the war scenario, adding: ‘like al-Moallem said, if the United States is really concerned about the proliferation and use of chemical weapons, then this problem can be resolved.’
He said that if the strikes actually occur, then most experts believe that the chances of holding the Geneva conference will be very slim, something that was affirmed by Lakhdar Brahimi during a meeting with Lavrov on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
‘As for our support for the Syrian people’s efforts to protect their sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and freedom, this issue was discussed in detail by President Putin in a press conference at the G20 summit,’ Lavrov said.
Regarding the alleged US letter, al-Moallem said that he doesn’t know anything about such a letter, and Lavrov said the same and therefore he wouldn’t respond to such a question, asserting that there can be no deals behind the Syrian people’s back, not now, and not in the future.
Lavrov said: ‘If supervising chemical weapons in Syria will avoid strikes, we will begin working on this with Damascus.’
The Russian Foreign Minister also said that after he had held negotiations with Walid al-Moallem, he received word that US Secretary of State John Kerry had made a statement saying that Syria can avoid strikes against it if it turns over its chemical weapons to the international community.
In a press statement, Lavrov said: ‘we don’t know if Syria will agree to this, but if holding international supervision on chemical weapons in Syria will allow for avoiding the threat of strikes then in this case we will begin working with Damascus.
‘We appeal to the Syrian leadership not only to reach an agreement on submitting the locations and stores of chemical weapons to international supervision, but to also destroy them and join the chemical weapons non-proliferation organisation.’
Lavrov pointed out that this suggestion was submitted to al-Moallem while he was visiting Moscow, and that Russia expected a quick and positive response from the Syrian government.