Despite UN investigation, Lavrov claims Syria’s chemical weapons ‘resolved’
MOSCOW // Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday warned against what he called unfounded claims that Syria has chemical weapons, as the United Nations Security Council investigates deadly chlorine gas attacks.
His comments came after Russia on Friday backed the setting up of a UN Security Council panel to identify who is behind the chlorine attacks, which the West blames on the Damascus regime.
Mr Lavrov said the operation to remove chemical weapons from Syria was successful, and that all claims to the contrary should be checked.
“This problem was successfully resolved,” he said of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks in a statement.
Mr Lavrov’s comments come a day before he is to meet Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir in Moscow to discuss the situation in Syria and Yemen and ways to combat ISIL.
Mr Lavrov stressed that international powers should unite against IS, calling it a “common enemy.”
He referred to a map drawn up by ISIL showing its plan to control the sites of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia which are sacred to Muslims.
“Members of this terrorist organisation have promised to blow up Muslim sacred sites because they consider them to be a reflection of ‘incorrect’ Islam. This is a terrible organisation,” he said.
The meeting between Mr Lavrov and Mr Al Jubeir comes just a week after the two met in Doha and held three-party talks with US secretary of state John Kerry amid intensified high-level diplomatic contacts over Syria and ISIL.
Syria in 2013 agreed to turn over its chemical arsenal and disable production sites after the United States threatened military action over a sarin attack outside Damascus.
A total of 1,300 metric tonnes of chemical weapons have been removed from Syria, with the majority being destroyed aboard the US Navy ship MV Cape Ray.
“Sometimes publications come out that there could be undeclared chemical weapons in Syria. This is all being checked, here we must avoid unfounded accusations,” Mr Lavrov said on Sunday.
“We have every basis to consider that Syria will continue co-operating closely.”
The US, Britain and France have repeatedly accused President Bashar Al Assad’s forces of carrying out chlorine gas attacks with barrel bombs dropped from helicopters.
Russia maintains there is no solid proof that Damascus is behind the attacks.
Russia’s top diplomat reiterated Russia’s backing for embattled Mr Al Assad, arguing that the US-led coalition should overcome its “persistent rejection” of cooperation with the Assad regime in the fight with ISIL.
“We still think this objective is achievable,” he said.
* with reporting by Agence France-Presse, Reuters