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AMBASSADOR'S ARTICLES

19.09.2013

Syrian chemical weapons: key step towards Syrian settlement or another tussle in New York? (by Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to UK)

Three weeks ago, the world was preparing for another «humanitarian intervention» - some with jubilation, others with concern. For Russia, it was clear that a «military option», however limited, against Syria, would amount to a grave violation of international law and thus would rock the world order which benefits us all. It was out of the understanding of all the disastrous consequences of such a scenario that Russia embarked upon intensive diplomatic effort to mobilise collective action on a clear threat to international community. Obviously, it helped to bring policy-making in a number of countries in line with the popular mood.

Today, the military action seems to have been averted. The Syrian Government has agreed to declare its chemical weapons stockpile, to put it under international control for subsequent destruction, and moved fast to join the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Russia and the United States have proposed a detailed framework of implementation procedure. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN Security Council are preparing follow-up decisions.

This result is something nobody could think of a month ago. It demonstrates that when political will and mutual respect are there, everything is possible. It also shows that Russia and the United States are capable of overcoming differences and fulfilling their responsibilities for international peace and security if artificial preconditions and unhelpful rhetoric are set aside. This is pure realism and common sense.

The focus is now on implementation. The Russia-U.S. arrangement reserves the central role to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body that possesses the best expertise available in the field. OPCW is to be supported by the Security Council. Some countries are continuing to advocate a Chapter VII resolution of the Council, i.e. a resolution implying use of force in case of non-compliance. But what is needed today is professional work by the OPCW with the political support of the Security Council rather than military threats, which, by the way, serve rather national egos than common sense. This is fully in line with the decisions on Syrian chemical weapons reached at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland in June 2013.

The agreement on chemical weapons and its successful implementation may open new ways for political settlement of the Syrian crisis. Russia and the U.S. have agreed to step up efforts aimed at convening a conference with both the Syrian Government and opposition represented. The Government have long ago declared their readiness for negotiations. We hope that our Western partners will soon succeed in persuading the opposition to follow suit. The more this conference is delayed, the more influence is gained in Syria by extremists whose agenda has nothing to do with Syrian national interest, and the more that conflict becomes a breeding ground for radicalisation.

So, the choice for international community is clear - either we build upon what has already been achieved, or engage in another counterproductive tussle in New York, which, while about looks and rhetoric, will put at risk what promises to be a shared success.




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