Divisions emerge over UN statement on Syria

French and Russian diplomats at loggerheads over draft resolution on securing Syrian chemical weapons.

Russian and French disagreements have hit a diplomatic drive to agree a UN resolution on securing Syria’s chemical weapons and averting military strikes.

France said on Tuesday it would submit a Security Council resolution calling on Syria to put its chemical weapons beyond use or face “extremely serious” reprisals.

Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday that the draft would give Syria 15 days to disclose its stockpiles or face action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter – which makes any UN resolution legally binding and enforceable by military action.

However, Russia apparently rejected the French proposal due to its threat of force, and cancelled a planned meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday.

Russia, the main backer of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, is expected to table its own resolution while a French foreign ministry spokesman, Philippe Lalliot, told the AFP news agency that Paris was “ready to amend (the) draft as long as its main principles and aims are preserved”.

The US, Britain and France accuse the Syrian government of staging the attack, which the US administration says killed more than 1,400 people. The Syrian government has blamed opposition fighters.

On Tuesday, Lavrov said Russia would send the US ideas on how to secure chemical weapons in Syria.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said Russian suggestions that the UN endorsement come in the form of a non-binding statement from the rotating president of the Security Council would be unacceptable to the Obama administration.

Fabius had said the resolution would demand that the individuals responsible for the attack be put on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“It will provide for extremely serious consequences in the event of Syria violating its obligations,” Fabius said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has said the disarmament initiative would only be successful if the idea of military intervention was taken off the table.

Russia has announced that officials have begun talks with the Syrians on a “concrete plan” to put their chemical weapons beyond use.

Lavrov said: “We expect to present this plan soon and we will be ready to work on it with the UN secretary-general, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, with the participation of members of the UN Security Council.”

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s defence minister, said Russia’s initiative demonstrated that international pressure backed by the threat of military action had worked, but said that Syria had to act swiftly to prove its good faith.

Syrian opponents of the Assad regime denounced the Russian move as a  “political manoeuvre” designed to avert strikes and create divisions.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies