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 Valday 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 Valday 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 they 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.
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 Valday 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 said that any attempt to interfere in the conflict by supporting one of the sides would bring imbalance. When the crisis began over two years ago, it immediately started getting support from abroad, he said.
“How did terrorist groups like Al-Nusra appear there? Even the State Department admits that Al-Qaeda’s branches are fighting [in Syria],” Putin observed.
The Russian leader is frustrated that Western states have no idea what they would do if, after their interference in the ongoing war, extremists came to power in Syria.
“Would they drive them away with a newspaper?” Putin said. – RT