WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Moscow is prepared to expand cooperation with the United States on settling the ongoing conflict in Syria on a firm international legal basis, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov told Sputnik.
“Russia is ready to continue and increase cooperation with the United States on a solid international legal basis to reach a peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict,” Antonov said.
So far, Russia-US cooperation on Syria has been largely limited to the hotline preventing incidents in Arab Republic’s airspace, as well as the agreement on the creation of a safe zone in the country’s south.
According to Antonov, Moscow had decided to send an invitation to the US and UN Security Council members to participate as observers in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress.
“We consider the Congress as a forum designed to give serious impulses to the negotiation process under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva and to the achievement of the accords by the Syrians themselves by mutual agreement and without preconditions,” Antonov said. “We call on international and regional players that have an influence on the development of the situation in Syria to take an unambiguous position in support of the Congress.”
Russia and the United States used to chair the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), whick became the first steps in the Syrian settlement process. However, the US administration changed in early 2017, and the new president did not show any clear intention to be particularly involved in the Syrian issue. The three states which have a strong interest in and influence on Syria – Russia, Turkey, and Iran – decided to use this window of opportunity by taking the settlement process into their own hands.
Speaking about the the Cold-War era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Antonov stated that Washington shinds “substantive” talks on Russia’s concerns about the US shortfalls in implementing the missile treaty.
“We are convinced that aggressive public rhetoric used by Washington is counterproductive and does not contribute to strengthening the INF,” he added.
“A complicated situation has arisen around the treaty on medium- and short-range missiles. Washington continues to politicize this issue, reinforcing its line of publicly accusing Russia of ‘violating’ the INF,” the senior diplomat said.
Russia’s proposal to make the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty multilateral remains relevant today, particularly because of the changes in in international security since the treaty conclusion, he stated.
“In 2007, Russia proposed that the INF Treaty become multilateral. Unfortunately, our proposal was not supported by the European countries — the US allies in the NATO bloc,” Antonov said.
The INF was signed back in 1987 by the United States and the then Soviet Union to prevent the use of nuclear and conventional missiles with an intermediate range, defined as 500 to 5,000 kilometers (310 to 3,100 miles).
According to Antonov, Moscow has questions over the United States’ fulfillment of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), specifically on the re-equipment of some of the strategic offensive weapons, however, the dialogue between the countries continues.
“As for the fulfillment of the Treaty terms by the United States, we have questions. In particular, with regard to the re-equipment of part of the US strategic offensive arms,” Antonov said. “As Russian President Vladimir Putin said on January 11, this is possible only if able to verify that there was no potential for reverse conversion of such objects. So far, Russia has no such evidence, and this causes some concern.”
“We continue the dialogue on these issues with the American side. We hope that the United States will also unequivocally fulfill its obligations under the Treaty,” the ambassador added.