originally posted at 20:47
VALDAI, September 18 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow will soon submit to the United Nations findings indicating that the Syrian opposition had used chemical weapons during the deadly civil war, the Russian foreign minister said Wednesday.
“Reports about the use of chemical weapons [in Syria] reflect the fact that the opposition regularly resorts to provocations seeking to trigger [foreign military] strikes and intervention in Syria. We have enough evidence [to prove it],” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during the 10th annual meeting of the Valdai Club, a Kremlin-backed discussion forum that brings together Russian and foreign politicians, academics and other public figures.
“We have information related to the incidents that took place in August in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, a lot of information. We will take it all to the UN Security Council,” he added.
UN inspectors said Monday that they had found “clear and convincing evidence” that chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, were used in an August 21 attack in Ghouta that killed hundreds of people.
The US and some of its Western allies have attributed the attack to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but Moscow and Syria have repeatedly called it a provocation by anti-Assad rebels.
US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a news briefing in Washington on Wednesday that the United States will “look at any evidence that comes in and evaluate it” but that it had not seen any indication that Syrian rebels had deployed chemical weapons.
“We have no credible evidence that anyone other than the regime has used chemical weapons in Syria,” Harf said.
Lavrov said Syrian officials had handed over evidence indicating the opposition’s possible involvement in the chemical attack to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who is currently on a visit to Damascus.
“I haven’t familiarized myself with it yet, but I’m convinced that the experts would work with it and, of course, we would submit it to the UN Security Council,” Lavrov said.
Ryabkov traveled to Damascus to discuss Syria’s compliance with the US-Russian plan to place Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles under international control.
“We expect all the sides to honor this deal,” Lavrov said.
According to a Valdai Club participant, political expert Gleb Pavlovsky, Lavrov said Russia had no plans of pressing for Assad’s resignation.
“Lavrov refuses to persuade Assad to leave [his post]. Moscow has no experience of political engineering like that,” Pavlovsky wrote on his Facebook page.
On September 14, after days of intense negotiations, Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced an ambitious plan under which all chemical weapons in Syria would be made available to international inspectors by November and destroyed by mid-2014.
Two days later, it became evident that the two states differ in their approaches to the plan.
The United States is pushing for a UN Security Council resolution that would allow the use of military force against Syria in response to its failure to comply with the plan, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday, hours after Lavrov said that option was a nonstarter.
Updated with comment from State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
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