The West has “no appetite” for a military intervention in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday. At the same time, Moscow’s intelligence shows the Arab country’s chemical arsenal is “so far” secured, he revealed.
“No one has any appetite for intervention. Behind the scenes, I have a feeling they are praying that Russia and China go on blocking intervention, as sanctioning it would mean they must act – and they are not ready,” Lavrov told journalists on a flight back to Moscow from an EU summit in Brussels.
The FM was assessing the current mood in the UN Security Council after NATO cleared the stationing of Patriot missiles in Turkey. Ankara and the alliance say this is a containment tool to prevent any further Syrian violence from spilling over the border, but political analysts believe the step might signal the West and their Middle East allies are preparing to intervene in Syria.
Chemical weapons ‘so far’ secured, but US needs to ‘decide on priorities’
Syria’s chemical arsenal remains one of the major international concerns since the topic first emerged in July. Lavrov says that President Bashar Assad’s government is doing whatever’s possible to secure the weapons.
“So far, the arsenal is under control. The Syrian authorities have gathered all the stock in one or two locations. It used to be scattered all over the country,” the FM said adding that Moscow and Washington’s intelligence agree on the matter.
Syria is reportedly in possession of nerve agents, including mustard gas, as well as the Scud missiles needed to deliver them. The country is a non-signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws their production.
Since July, Assad’s government has repeatedly stated that chemical weapons will not be used on Syria, but Syrian officials have not excluded the possibility they might be deployed in the event of “a foreign attack.”
The threat has drawn international condemnation.
The EU, US and many others are also worried that Syria’s chemical weapons might fall into the hands of the Syrian rebels, some of whom have links to Al-Qaeda.
But Lavrov pointed out at some inconsistency in Washington’s approach where the chemical arsenal issues overlap with US support for the Syrian opposition.
“Our American partners admit that the main threat is rebels seizing the chemical arsenal. The opposition forces include all kinds of groups even ones the US has recently proclaimed terror groups. We tell them: ‘Guys but you support the opposition and its armed struggle. This armed struggle might result in exactly what you fear. You decide on your priorities.’ But there is no clear response to that,” said Lavrov.
Russia refuses to act as an intermediary trying to Assad into fleeing, Lavrov also said. At the same time Moscow is not going to accommodate the Syrian president should he step down: “Assad is not going anywhere, no matter what anyone says, be it China or Russia.”
On being asked whether the rebels will eventually oust President Assad, Lavrov replied: “Listen, no one is going to win this war.”
The situation in Syria remains volatile with new deaths reported daily by human rights groups. According to those reports, the death toll in the country which has been engulfed in the civil unrest since March 2011 has exceeded 40,000 people. The UN Human Rights Committee also says the conflict made 164,000 refugees.
Moscow insists the Syrian conflict should be resolved through direct and unconditional negotiations between the government and opposition. Russia insists the country should be given the right to self-determination and neither side should be supported.
The US, the UK, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries in the West and the Middle East, on the other hand, call on President Assad to step down immediately and grant financial and military support to the Syrian opposition forces. But despite all the support, the Syrian National Coalition which was deemed to become an umbrella for all the Syrian opposition groups still failed to unify Assad’s opponents and therefore does not have leverage on all the forces fighting the goverment’s troops on the ground.
The UN says the Syrian war is growing more sectarian than civic with each day and that there is no end in sight to the conflict.