The latest use of chemical weapons in Syria last week, which left almost a thousand opposition fighters dead, triggered a very harsh reaction of the West, and this time the major Western states seem to be more determined to step up their actions against the Assad regime. In particular, US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the Syrian government at a special conference for “inexcusable use of chemical weapons.” In his words, there is “convincing and undeniable” evidence that Syrian governmental troops used chemical weapons near Damascus. Kerry claims that Washington has some additional information about the chemical attack in Syria, which will be soon presented to the world community. The US secretary of state is convinced that Damascus was deliberately putting off the decision to allow UN inspectors to arrive, waiting for the traces of battlefield toxic agents to be destroyed or vanish in a natural way. Besides, Kerry emphasized that it was no use cherishing illusions. “Make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people,” Kerry said.
Britain, the US’s old ally, believes that diplomatic pressure on Syria has not produced the desired result. As the British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC, it would be possible for the UK and its allies to respond without the UN’s unanimous backing. He said the UN Security Council, split over Syria, had not “shouldered its responsibilities.” The secretary said he could not go into options or a timetable for action, but the response will be “in accordance with international law.” “We can’t allow the idea in the 21st century that chemical weapons can be used with impunity,” Hague said.
The chief French diplomat, Laurent Fabius, has also criticized the Syria regime’s actions. He thinks this chemical attack may become a turning point in this war. “Bashar al-Assad has confirmed again that he doesn’t care at all about human lives or international law standards. Moreover, this happened a year after Obama had drawn the ‘red line,’” he told Le Figaro. In his words, this time the regime actions must be followed by a tough response of the international community.
Fabius believes that the US should make a choice in this situation between interventionism and isolationism. “It is not so easy to make a decision, for when the US intervenes into events, it is reproached for this, but, at the same time, when lack of action on its part leads to sensitive consequences,” the French foreign minister said.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said resolutely that his country will join any international coalition against Syria even if no broader consensus is reached at the UN Security Council.
The US has increased its naval presence in the region. In the words of US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, this step will allow the president to act very flexibly.
On his part, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Western countries have submitted no evidence to the UN Security Council about the Syrian government’s involvement in the chemical attacks. And, in his view, making unilateral decisions that bypass the UN Security Council will be “a gross violation of international law.” “The attempts to create again, bypassing the Security Council, an artificial and unfounded excuse for military intervention in the region is fraught with new sufferings in Syria and disastrous consequences for other Middle East and Northern Africa countries,” he said in a special statement for the press.
In his turn, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Russia’s Izvestia that the United States will be doomed for failure if it attacks Syria.
Analysts believe that the most likely version of US military interference will be a sea missile strike on Syrian military facilities. The Obama administration has left itself almost no room for maneuver – its prestige will drop to zero if it does not manage to resort to one way of military actions or another, observers emphasize.
But the problem is that a military intervention needs a UN mandate, which is impossible in this case. This intervention is opposed by Assad’s ally Russia and China. However, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, thinks that a military response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria may involve forming a coalition of NATO and some Arab states.
Leslie H. Gelb notes in the article “Obama’s New Syria Options”: “The Obama administration inches painfully toward what they all see as the moment of truth in Syria… Once again, he [Obama. – Ed.] could walk away from the use of force because that option has little backing either in his administration or among Americans generally. But after an endless run of inter-agency meetings at the White House, the sense is that he is nearing three conclusions:
“First, the Syrian government has put his credibility on the line irrevocably and inescapably; second, he now must take direct military action to punish the government of President Bashar al-Assad, though not in a manner that commits him to further use of force; and third, he needs to combine whatever force he uses now with dramatic and diplomatic initiatives.”
The Day requested Hennadii LATII, special representative of Ukraine for the Middle East and Africa, to comment on the situation in Syria and the possible ways of resolving the conflict in that country.
“Any reactions to the situation in Syria, including military intervention, of which some analysts are saying, are only possible if the UN Security Council passes a resolution to this effect.”
Experts are saying about the possibility of Kosovo-type developments in Syria – at the time, the Security Council failed to make a decision on military intervention in Yugoslavia because Russia was against it and the military operation was conducted by NATO member states without the Security Council’s consent. What will you say to this? To what extent is this scenario of developments likely in Syria?
“In that case, certain countries will be held responsible. In accordance with international law, any interference into the internal affairs of foreign countries is only possible by decision of the UN Security Council.
“Ukraine is not a party to this process. We are neither the US nor Russia. For this reason, we can only guess whether the Kosovo-type situation will occur in Syria. Let us wait and see. I don’t think the negotiating process has exhausted itself.”
As is known, the US State Department has postponed a meeting on the organization of Geneva 2, a conference on Syria, which was to be held today in The Hague. And, in general, the very probability of this conference is being called into question.
“Negotiations are a never-ending process. Therefore, this meeting will take place a little later. Disputes cannot be resolved without negotiations. So the talks are sure to go on. I am convinced in this.
“As for Geneva 2, we still consider it possible that the two sides, the Syrian government and the opposition, will sit down at the negotiating table in the future and find the possibility of a peaceful settlement of the conflict.”
Turkeyhas said it will be prepared to intervene in the situation to stop violence in Syria if it has allies.
“I hope force will not be used, for we have already seen that this only increases the death toll among the civilian population, I hope the two sides will reach a peaceful solution.”
Incidentally, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a BBC interview that diplomatic pressure on Syria had not produced a desired result. Is it not right?
“I hope diplomacy has not yet exhausted itself and it will be possible to avert the use of force to settle the conflict.”
To what extent does it depend on Russia that the Syrian conflict should be resolved peacefully and is the Kremlin going to change its stand on this matter?
“Naturally, the position of Russia does matter. Russia was and still is playing quite a considerable role in these negotiations. And I think its position is quite an important lever of influence on the situation in the region. Is Russia going to change its stand? So far, it has not been doing so. I do not think this position will change in the near future.”