Moscow said an international task force is poised to re-enter Syria on Wednesday to look further at allegations of chemical-weapons use in the country’s civil war, Reuters reported.
Russia last week criticized the initial U.N. findings that nerve gas was used in an Aug. 21 attack, which have widely been seen to implicate its Damascus ally in that release over a Damascus suburb.
Moscow, though, is “pleased” that the investigators now are expected to probe “other episodes” of possible chemical-weapon use, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday. Russia has joined Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government in blaming such strikes on rebel forces.
States parties to an international chemical-arms ban on Tuesday were consulting on a “draft decision” for dismantling Syria’s chemical arsenal, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons stated. The 41-nation OPCW Executive Council was due on Tuesday to vote on a U.S.-Russian blueprint for monitoring and destroying the stockpile, Reuters reported.
Envoys said the U.N. Security Council could act as soon as Thursday to pass a measure backing the OPCW text. Russia, though, has continued opposing calls by Western governments for the Security Council to endorse possible punitive action for any noncompliance by Damascus.
“There can be no talk of any automatic application of sanctions, let alone the use of force,” Reuters quoted Ryabkov as saying on Tuesday.
Specialists said eliminating the weapons by next June — as the U.S.-Russian disarmament plan demands — would be a challenge for the international community, the New York Times reported on Monday.
“If you want to act quickly, the technical decisions have to be made now, while the diplomats are working,” said Lenny Siegel, head of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight. “This is difficult stuff and it’s costly but the technologies exist — though most people don’t know that.”
Meanwhile, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Monday rejected a Syrian rebel assertion that it had taken custody of chemical arms from Syria, the Daily Star reported.