Russia has accused the West of trying to exploit a chemical weapons deal with Syria to push through a UN resolution threatening force against President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad’s government handed over information about its chemical arsenal last week to a UN-backed weapons watchdog, meeting the first deadline of the ambitious US-Russia accord.
An international presence is needed on the perimeters of the areas where the experts will work.,.. we are willing to send our troops and military police to participate.
But major powers on the UN Security Council, who have disagreed throughout a conflict which has killed 100,000 people, remain divided over how to ensure compliance with the accord.
The US, France and Britain want a Council resolution issued under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which could authorise sanctions or military intervention if Damascus reneges on its commitments.
Russia, which along with China has blocked three draft resolutions on Syria since the 2011 uprising against Assad erupted, opposes Western threats of force against an ally which Moscow has continued to arm and support during the civil war.
“They see in the US-Russian deal not a chance to save the planet from significant quantities of chemical weapons in Syria, but as a chance to do what Russia and China will not allow, namely to push through a resolution involving (the threat of) force against the regime and shielding the opposition,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
‘Willing to send our troops’
Lavrov also said Russia was ready to send troops to Syria to ensure the safety of UN chemical weapons inspectors.
“An international presence is needed on the perimeters of the areas where the experts will work,” he said. “We are willing to send our troops and military police to participate.”
“I do not think that there is a need for a major contingent. I think military observers will be sufficient.”
Meanwhile the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that a mortar shell landed in the compound of its embassy in central Damascus, injuring three people.
Assad agreed to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons after a sarin gas strike in Damascus suburbs last month – the world’s deadliest chemical attack in 25 years.
Washington accused Assad’s forces of carrying out the attack, which it said killed more than 1,400 people, though monitoring groups and other Western governments have cited a much lower death toll.
It said a report by UN chemical weapons experts last week supported its view – an assertion which Moscow disputes.
Assad blamed rebels for the attack, saying it made no sense for his forces to use chemical weapons when they were gaining the upper hand and while UN chemical inspectors were staying in central Damascus.