Situation in Syria: five key points. Part 1

23.09.2013

I would like to outline five key points that characterize the specific situation concerning Syria and the chemical weapons in Syria as it stands on 18 September. Three of these key points have multiple aspects to them, one has a double aspect, and one is a combination of multiple and double aspects.

The first key point is the agreement reached in Geneva as a result of bilateral Russian-U.S. negotiations at the end of last week, that is, the Lavrov-Kerry agreement, which turned the Russian initiative into a bilateral Russian-U.S agreement. This is the bilateral aspect.

The second key point is what we have got since Monday evening two days ago, that is, the UN Mission report on the chemical weapons situation in Syria, and consequently, the conclusions it has presented.  It would not be very difficult, actually, to study the core five-page part of this report, as well as its more detailed proposals. We shall briefly comment on this, bearing in mind that members of this audience are not technical experts. So this would be the point of multiple aspects.

The third point is the discussion at the UN Security Council taking place yesterday and today regarding the draft resolution on Syria. This, naturally, also has multiple aspects.

The fourth key point concerns the ongoing informal consultations on preparations for the so-called Geneva-2 process. This process, which started back in early summer, before the discussion flared up – or the start of a new discussion – concerns the use of Syrian chemical weapons. This discussion started at the end of August, since August 21. There have been preparations for Geneva-2 before that, and this was discussed in Geneva in a bilateral format by Lavrov and Kerry. The discussion continues in a bilateral format as well as in multilateral formats with the participation of non-regional players. As I have already mentioned, these are Russia, the United States, and other permanent members of the UN Security Council. Here, it is important to note the role played by countries such as the People’s Republic of China, France and Great Britain. Just as important are the Iraqi initiatives, which are being discussed in the Middle East, including the Arab countries, Iran, and Turkey.

And finally, the fifth point – I promised to mention five key points which characterize the present situation regarding Syria – is the bilateral dialogue between Russia and Syria, particularly, in the contest of the visit to Syria by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and his talks with the Syrian counterparts, including the Syrian foreign minister.

So now I will briefly comment on these five key points, after which I shall give the floor to my colleague.

 

1. Regarding the Lavrov-Kerry plan. In my view, a breakthrough was achieved in Geneva as a result of complex talks on Syria between Russia and the United States. First of all, this concerns the issue of weapons of mass destruction, and more specifically, chemical weapons in Syria. Potentially, we are talking here about an unprecedented agreement which could be described as a working plan, or a “road map”, as some would call it. It would be a potentially unprecedented agreement. This is because I cannot recall any other precedent of WMD being destroyed within the past years and decades – especially during an escalation of internal political unrest, which has essentially turned into a civil war.

As far as we can recall, chronologically the most recent destruction of WMD took place in Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine. But that was taking place soon after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Thank God, this was carried out in peaceful conditions and with international support. We could also recall other cases of chemical and biological weapons, as well as components of missile weapons being destroyed in the 1990s. But that was in a different situation. This was a result of Iraq’s losing the first war in the Gulf. Politically, the results of those actions were totally opposite. Weapons were scrapped in both cases. As far as the scrapping of nuclear weapons and delivery systems in Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan is concerned, these states have joined the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear states. Important results had been achieved in strengthening the international WMD nonproliferation regime.

In the case of Iraq, where, in particular, Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons have been successfully scrapped under international supervision, we have a far more controversial picture. Back then, Saddam Husain remained in power. Nevertheless, after that his regime was removed by the Americans under the pretext that he had not destroyed all of those weapons. Later on, a similar, although slightly different, scenario was played out in Libya.

The blog entry is based on PIR Center media briefing «Russian-US plan on Syria: perspectives of implementation» from September 18, 2013

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