Russia is ready to provide funds and personnel for future efforts to eliminate Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles, Russia’s top diplomat has said.
It reported over the weekend that a team of about a dozen of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will head to Syria on October 1 to take the stockpiles under control.
In an interview published by the Kommersant daily on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian experts were “ready to partake in all aspects of future activities – in inspections and in administrative structures that might be set up to coordinate activities between the UN and the OPCW on site, as well as in structures that would possibly be set up to provide [the inspectors’] security.”
He also vowed financial support to the future OPCW effort in Syria.
The Russian top diplomat said it was up to OPCW inspectors to decide what types of chemical weapons should be destroyed in Syria and what should be taken abroad.
“This is up to professionals to decide. They should see everything with their own eyes and determine what poisonous substances can be destroyed on site and what [facilities] are needed for this. Possibly, the Syrians have the required facilities, although I doubt it,” he said, adding that a part of the Syrian chemical stockpile can be destroyed with the help of mobile facilities that the United States and a group of other countries have.
Lavrov added that the recently adopted UN Security Council resolution on Syria permits taking chemical weapons out of the country – a practice not envisaged by the Chemical Weapons Convention. He described the resolution, adopted unanimously on Friday night, as a “generally positive” document intended to keeps the Syrian conflict settlement within the political dimension.
He said Russia would encourage the Syrian government to observe the schedule, agreed by the UN and the OPCW, but Western powers and their Arab allies supporting the Syrian opposition should “send a clear signal” to anti-government rebels, “so that they wouldn’t dare to undermine this process.”
The OPCW’s 41-nation executive council agreed on an accelerated program for Syria’s chemical stockpiles elimination on Friday night, stating that all chemical weapons should be destroyed by mid-2014. The decision requires inspections in Syria to start on October 1.
The Russian top diplomat said that Russia would press for an international conference to make Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. The conference was agreed in 2010 and scheduled to take place last year, but preparations have stalled.
According to Lavrov, Russian President Vladimir Putin set a task to put all chemical stockpiles in the world under the international control after meeting with his US counterpart Barack Obama at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.