Syria crisis: Regime has given Russia 'proof' of rebel chemical weapon use

Foreign Minister Lavrov remains at odds with French over culpability for deaths


Syria has turned over "material evidence" to Russia which shows that a chemical weapons attack in Damascus was carried out by the rebels, a Moscow diplomat has claimed.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister also accused the report carried out by UN inspectors of being “distorted” and “one-sided”, according to the BBC.

The report suggests the rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were fired from the regime's elite military units base in mountains overlooking Damascus. A senior UN diplomat in New York says details on scale of the attack, the rockets used and trajectory data cited in the report make it "abundantly clear" that the Syrian regime was behind the attack. The diplomat said: "There isn't a shred of evidence in the other direction."

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because some of the material was from private meetings. 

In an interview with RT, Mr Ryabkov said the Assad regime had provided Russia with evidence that chemical weapons had been used by rebels, and said “we need to analyse it”.

France has since rejected the claims , with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius telling a press conference in Paris that: “Nobody can question the objectivity of the people (inspectors) appointed by the UN.”

Russia continues to insist that opposition forces carried out the murderous gas attack near last month  - throwing into doubt the prospect of a rapid UN deal on Syrian disarmament.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking after talks in Moscow with his French counterpart, said that he had “serious grounds” to believe that the gas attack confirmed by UN inspectors on Monday was a “provocation” by rebels.  Mr Lavrov once again rejected Western demands that a UN security council resolution on Syrian chemical disarmament should include an automatic right to use force if Damascus fails to comply.

He said that Moscow would stick by its interpretation of the wording of the deal that he reached with the United States in Geneva last weekend.  Mr Lavrov said that military force, under Chapter Seven of the UN charter, might be possible if Syria failed to surrender its chemical arsenal – but only after a second security council vote.

Western governments fear that such a two-step agreement – although implied by the ambiguous wording of the Geneva deal – would allow Moscow to veto international backing for punitive strikes even if Syria drags its feet. This would create domestic, political embarrassment and legal difficulties for Washington and Paris if they went ahead with their “suspended” threat of punitive air strikes. 

Under the agreement reached between Mr Kerry and Mr Lavro in Geneva, Damascus must submit a full inventory of its arsenal by the end of this week, admit international inspectors by November and surrender its chemical weapons by the middle of next year. After much haggling, the Russians agreed wording which threatens “ consequences” if Syria failed to comply but – according to Moscow - stipulates that there must be  a second UN resolution before any punitive action.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said before he left France that he hoped to persuade Mr Lavrov to accept the harder line demanded by the US, Britain and France after talks in Paris on Monday. He also said that the UN inspectors’ report, released on Monday, would force Moscow to abandon its previous claims that rebels were responsible for the gas attack near Damascus on 21 August.

In the event, Mr Fabius made no progress on either point. The two men told a press conference in Moscow  that they had been unable to bridge their differences – casting doubt on the prospects for a speedy UN security council resolution.

“We have very serious grounds to believe that the [gas attack] was a provocation [by rebels],” Mr Lavrov said. He said that the UN report proved that chemical weapons had been used but had not solved key issues such as “whether the weapons were produced in a factory or home-made”.

Mr Fabius begged to differ. “When you look at the amount of sarin gas used, the [means of delivery], the techniques behind such an attack, as well as other aspects, it seems to leave no doubt that the [Assad] regime is behind it,” the French foreign minister said.

On the wording of a UN security council resolution to give international weight to the US-Russia deal in Geneva, Mr Lavrov was also adamant. He said that he had “spoken clearly” in Geneva about rejecting an automatic use of force. However,  if evidence emerged that Damascus was not complying with a first UN resolution, then the “the Security Council will [meet again to] examine the situation.”

The three western permanent members of the security council – the US, Britain and France – are expected to draft a resolution  this week under the “use-of-force” clause in the UN charter. Mr Fabius told French radio before leaving Paris that he was confident that Moscow would not use its veto to block such a resolution.

Video: Bomb on Turkey-Syria border

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Wood Flooring - OTE £65,000

£25000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fast growing high end wood floo...

Day In a Page

Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food
Simon Pegg talks Star Wars, Mission Impossible and Game of Thrones

'I’m constantly pinching myself'

Simon Pegg talks Star Wars, Mission Impossible and Game of Thrones
Ashley Madison: The cheat's guide to using the extramarital website

Ashley Madison

The cheats' guide to using the extramarital affair website
Valentino's vision lives on in Chiuri and Piccioli

Valentino's vision lives on

Valentino is a byword for opulence. And now Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli are carrying on the great man's legacy
Stunning new Nasa images of Pluto show glacier-like moving ice formations

Stunning new images of Pluto

Nasa New Horizons team reveal latest pictures
Iran – the land where some 700 souls were executed last year

Iran – where some 700 souls were executed last year

It's not surprising that hanging and beheading have become a grim feature of 'justice' in the Muslim world, says Robert Fisk