After two years of controversy and disagreement, the UN Security Council at the end of last week accepted "historical resolution on Syria. It was based on the initiative of the Russian Federation to establish international control over Syrian chemical weapons with the aim of destroying them. Immediately after the vote in the UN Security Council, Russian Foreign Minister SERGEY LAVROV told Kommersant’s correspondent ELEEN-CHERNENKO how Russia's partners tried to replay the former agreements and what could undermine the disarmament process in Syria.
- US Secretary of State John Kerry called the agreement on Syria "historical format", and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that "the UN Security Council has finally justified its purpose." Do you agree with such estimates?
- We try not to interpret the decisions made, because they speak for themselves. A normal person, having familiarized himself with them, will understand everything himself. There is such a tradition in diplomacy that, after reaching a consensus, everyone sets off in the comments what he thinks is necessary.
We also did this, emphasizing in our statement that the resolution is not adopted under the head of 7 (the UN Charter, which allows the use of force. - “Kommersant”). This was the main intrigue, and there can be no ambiguity.
They also stressed that the Syrian leadership voluntarily acceded to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical weapons. And no matter for what reasons. They say that under the threat of strikes, but I am not interested in it - the result is important. It voluntarily asked to apply this convention earlier than it should be - not a month later, as in ordinary cases, but immediately. And quickly, ahead of time, not formally becoming a member of the convention, submitted a declaration on the stockpiles of their chemical weapons. This key task to do everything so that the part of the chemical reserves that are still in the world to neutralize, to take under international control and subsequently destroy, was put by the president (Vladimir Putin.- "Kommersant") after a conversation with Barack Obama in St. Petersburg.
It was also of fundamental importance to us that the UN Security Council in its resolution identified those responsible for the destruction of chemical weapons, including ensuring the safety of the personnel who will work there. This responsibility lies primarily with the Syrian government, since it is it that is primarily responsible for security in the territory of its state. However, responsibility is also placed on the opposition: it is required to cooperate in all processes that will take place in the territories it controls.
Another important point: the resolution says that chemical weapons should not be allowed to fall into the hands of non-state actors, that is, the same opposition and its units. The special attention of neighboring countries to Syria is drawn to the inadmissibility of attempts to use their territory to supply the opposition with chemical weapons.
To say that this resolution is forcing someone to do something, or that this means awakening at last the Security Council, is a favor to the situation. Probably, those who utter such interpretations proceed from the fact that their public opinion wants to hear one or another assessment of the situation. Or that part of public opinion must be convinced that representatives of the executive branch did everything correctly.
I take this philosophically. The main thing is that - I will repeat it once again - the resolution fully complies with the agreements that were reached with John Kerry in Geneva (September 12-14. — Kommersant). In accordance with these agreements, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the lead agency for the implementation of the tasks of taking control, inventory and determining the destruction of chemical stocks. This organization made its highly professional decision (on Syria. - “Kommersant”) several hours before the vote in the UN Security Council.
- And how did it happen that after a three-day negotiating marathon in Geneva, where you and Mr. Kerry agreed on everything, did you then have to re-negotiate the same points for another two weeks?
- Here are two aspects. Firstly, in Geneva we agreed a non-legal document with verified terms used in official decisions of international organizations. Although the language of Geneva was as close as possible to these terms, it needed to be detailed.
Secondly, the desire of our American partners was manifested - which must be confessed - after all, to replay the situation and again to return to the chapter 7. I had to spend a little more time negotiating. In the end, I am pleased that we remained faithful to the Geneva agreements, which are of key importance.
And I will emphasize: it is very important that the resolution finally managed to include the official approval of the Geneva communique of 30 June 2012 of the year, which contains a plan for a peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict. Until now, our Western colleagues did not want to do this without — as they said — interpretations of this communique. By interpretations, they again understood summarizing the communique under the 7 chapter.
So the result is generally positive. It does not reflect any change in the approach to the Syrian crisis: there are no threats approved by the Security Council to hold any intimidating force actions. Everything remains on a political plane.
- But the consequences of violations is still being said.
- Yes, we recorded that any violations committed by any party - the government or opposition groups, should be reported after a thorough investigation to the UN Security Council. This applies and, God forbid, the use of chemical weapons by anyone. If we are clearly confident that a party has violated or used chemical weapons, we will be ready to make a decision on chapter 7. This is recorded in our commitments. But we will not buy a cat in a bag, when we, like now about the August 21 episode (near Damascus. - “Kommersant”), are told: everyone understands that this is the work of the government.
“But the US says they have" thousands of evidence. "
- We have not presented them. We, on the contrary, presented evidence that we have (through our own sources, obtained, including from Syrians and from independent sources), which leads to the conclusion that this was the work of the opposition. And we have serious suspicions that such attempts will continue.
- Yes. At the meeting of the UN Secretary General with the five permanent members of the Security Council, and during the meeting of the Security Council itself, we stressed that the states that sponsor the opposition politically, financially and militarily (in terms of arms supplies) are responsible for ensuring that they don’t I did not try to get it from somewhere outside and did not try to organize provocations inside Syria to blame the government, cause universal anger and thereby try to provoke a strike from outside Syria. I think we are on the right track.
- And what actions to take in order to proceed directly to the destruction of chemical weapons? It was announced that already on October 1, OPCW inspectors could head to Syria.
- Yes. An advance team of 10-12 OPCW inspectors will head to Syria as landlords. They will have to decide where to base them and how to work. On the spot, they will establish contact with the Syrian government, from which a responsible person has already been appointed to assist them. The inspectors have a list of objects submitted by the Syrian government (military chemical program. - "Kommersant"). It is found to be satisfactory, but the inspectors may have additional questions. Syrians will respond to them.
Next, the inspectors will determine the additional personnel who will be nominated for the objects. It is imperative to ensure the safety of this group. This will primarily deal with the Syrian law enforcement agencies. But the resolution also demands from the opposition that in the territories adjacent to the areas controlled by it, it also does not create a threat to the activities and lives of inspectors.
Then the UN Secretary General’s report on the additional steps to be taken, based on the results of the initial inspections and the personnel security situation, will be presented. The report will also discuss what kind of international presence may be necessary. We are ready to participate in all components of the upcoming operation - in inspection activities and in administrative structures that can be created to coordinate actions between the UN and the OPCW in the field, and in structures that will probably have to be established to ensure security in support of the Syrian law enforcement agencies.
- When will it become clear where and how chemical weapons will be destroyed?
- This is to be solved by professionals. They must see everything with their own eyes and determine what toxic substances can be destroyed on the spot and what is required for this. It is possible that the Syrians have suitable powers for this, which I, incidentally, doubt. There is an opportunity - and it will certainly be involved - to use mobile installations for the destruction of certain types of toxic substances. They are available from the United States and several other countries.
In addition, in the Geneva agreements and UN Security Council resolutions, the possibility of exporting some of the poisonous substances for destruction abroad is allowed. It was very important to fix this provision in the Security Council resolution, because the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons does not provide for such a possibility. According to this convention, weapons must be destroyed on the territory of the country that produced it and which possesses it. But now we have all the options. On-site professional inspectors will understand in which combination to use these capabilities.
- The decision of the OPCW says that checks may concern not only the objects declared by Damascus, but also any other places. It will not create a ground for abuse?
- This is not some extraordinary measure. The convention provides that a country becoming a member first provides a declaration, after which the inspectors study it, and then watch it on the ground, as reality coincides with the declaration. Based on the professional parameters, they may have additional questions about some substances or their precursors. This is a normal practice. The President of Syria in recent days has repeatedly stressed the willingness to fully cooperate with the inspectors without any exceptions and limitations. I am sure that it will be so.
- A number of countries have already declared their readiness to support the operation to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons financially.
- Yes, the money, of course, will be required.
- Is Russia ready to allocate some amount?
- The decision of the executive council of the OPCW instructs the director general of the organization to work out the financial side of the entire operation. This is a new burden on the OPCW, and, of course, money is needed - they were not provided for in the budget, everything developed rapidly. The decision also calls on States to initially allocate voluntary contributions. I think, in any case, the Russian Federation will participate financially in this. But most importantly, we will definitely participate by our staff in inspection activities and other forms of international presence that can be proposed by the UN Secretary General.
- How will the agreements on Syria affect Russian-American relations? On the eve of the presidential elections in the United States, everyone said that if Mitt Romney came to power, bilateral relations would worsen. Barack Obama won, but the result was the same. Is it a trend or an accident?
- I would not draw a conclusion about some long-term trends in our interaction with the United States. Yes, in our dialogue there are occasional misunderstandings, but almost always they are amenable to solution and do not have an irreversible impact on the general vector of development of our cooperation. Here the understanding of the importance of our interaction prevails, especially on the most acute problems: terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. You see, how quickly we were united by the task of solving the problem of chemical weapons in Syria in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of terrorists and bandits, which would have unpredictable consequences.
On the other hand, there are fleeting positive highs. I do not want to say that a fleeting take-off is taking place now - this is an important aspect of our positive cooperation on the key issue of the modern world. Nevertheless, I cannot say that one-time, sometimes external improvements in relations will necessarily create stability for the future. It can be created by an in-depth confidential dialogue and especially by building an economic foundation. Our presidents agreed on this when they first met in Los Cabos last year "on the margins" of the G20 summit, highlighting as a priority the task of focusing on the economy. Unfortunately, she has not yet received serious reinforcements. As part of the failed Obama visit to Moscow on the eve of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, a powerful meeting of the presidents with business leaders of the Russian Federation and the United States was planned. In the course of it was supposed to discuss the "roadmap" with specific goals. I am sure that such a meeting will still take place.
I recall that during the meeting of presidents in Lough Erne in June, Barack Obama said that relations between the Russian Federation and the United States are the most important bilateral relations in the world. Then John Kerry repeated this more than once.
- Including in Geneva, after the negotiations on Syria.
- Yes. Therefore, we have a feeling that Americans seem to understand the importance of our interaction. We are ready for this absolutely as much as we are ready for this in Washington. It is a pity that the visit did not take place, that it was postponed. It was prepared very well, there were concrete arrangements.
- What will happen to them now?
- They are not going anywhere. They are already signing - and on additional areas of cooperation in the field of nuclear safety, and on many other issues.
We are realists and we proceed from the fact that emotions are a passing matter. Snowden is not Snowden, offenses are real and imaginary - it all goes away. And the understanding of the strategic importance of relations between the Russian Federation and the United States for international stability remains. We have a feeling that the current US leadership understands this. Our relationship is much larger, deeper and wider than some kind of resentment that is natural to any person.
- More recently, it was said about Russia (including the United States) that with regard to Syria, the Russian Federation "is not on the other side of history." Now many believe that she almost saved "Obama's face", and the Middle East - from a major war. Do you feel moral satisfaction from this?
- Many politicians, especially in the West, love bright slogans. But do not rush from one extreme to the other. I would avoid such emotional and pretentious statements. If those who objectively followed the situation, try to assess what has now happened on the Syrian crisis, they probably will come to the conclusion that we all were on the “right” side of history. Although there were shy of our partners who accused us that we were not there.
As a result, the Americans, apparently, themselves understood where they could get out, trying to get up on what seemed to be the right side of the story. However, this is a natural property of a person, a politician, a diplomat - those involved in resolving conflict situations - to act by trial and error. The main thing is that in this situation we pushed on the absolutely right side of history and made sure that a consensus developed around the world around our scheme, approved by both the OPCW and the UN Security Council, and by and large a part of the policy of Syria itself, which became a member of the Prohibition Convention chemical weapons.
It is very important that in the Hague, when a vote was taken on the decision on the role of the OPCW in implementing the program for the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, a special item was written, which all countries that have not already done so are encouraged to join the convention. I will reveal a little secret: this item was introduced by Iran and supported by the United States. Iran last century suffered from chemical weapons twice. I believe that he offered a very correct addition.
We in Geneva proposed to prescribe in the draft resolution of the UN Security Council that the resolution of the chemical weapons problem in Syria would be an important step towards the implementation of the long-adopted decision on the creation of a zone free from all types of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
- Why is this item in the end was not written off?
- The American partners faded away and left this. But the problem has not gone away. In 2010, the decision was made, the conference was to be held last year, almost a year has passed since the last date, but it is still there. We will ensure that this conference takes place. In the current situation, it is especially important to make the non-possession regime of weapons of mass destruction universal in this explosive region.
- What will be the most difficult in implementing the plan for the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria?
- Prevent disruption. We have reason to believe that the Syrian government will try to prevent such failures. In any case, we will be constantly encouraged to do so. But as for the disruptions that may result from provocations, the main role here belongs to our Western partners and their closest allies in the Persian Gulf and in the region as a whole, who sympathize with the oppositionists. They have influence on them. Not at all, it’s true: there are terrorist groups that do not obey anyone except Al-Qaida, and here, as they say, there is probably no contact through normal channels. But oppositionists who are influenced by external players must be educated. They should be sent a signal so that they do not dare to undermine this process.
- John Kerry said that the threat of the use of force is not completely removed.
- Everyone is trying to explain the lack of the solutions he needs, to justify it by the fact that it will still be possible to return to where we started. Americans, by tradition, never say that they will not do something. Their favorite expression: "all options remain on the table." God forbid that they remain on the table and that no one from them grasped and let go. We will do our utmost to ensure that this is the case.