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State Duma likely to adopt statement on Syria September 11

September 09, 2013, 18:08 UTC+3
Deputy Speaker Ivan Melnikov reminds that majority of G20 members oppose military strike on Syria
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Photo ITAR-TASS/ Denis Vyshinsky

Photo ITAR-TASS/ Denis Vyshinsky

MOSCOW, September 9 (Itar-Tass) - The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, will most likely adopt a statement on Syria on September 11, First Deputy Speaker Ivan Melnikov said.

“We want the statement to be adopted before the start of possible armed hostilities in Syria,” Melnikov told ITAR-TASS on Monday, September 9, adding that if an actual military operation started, the Duma would adopt a separate statement.

State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin said earlier in the day that the house would adopt a statement on Syria at one of its nearest sittings of the autumn session to open officially on September 10.

“We hope for a reaction from our American colleagues of course,” he said.

Naryshkin recalled that the Russian MPs had suggested discussing the Syrian crisis with American congressmen in direct dialogue and both houses of Russian parliament set up a special joint delegation for a trip to Washington.

“To our deep regret, our American partners avoided such dialogue. We regard this as a weakness of the American congressmen’s positions. Apparently, they themselves hardly believe or do not believe at all what the U.S. administration says -- that chemical weapons were used in Syria by the government troops. Obviously, the congressmen remember the infamous test tube [reference to then U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powel’s speech in the United Nations where he produced a test tube allegedly containing toxic agents as proof that the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein regime had weapons of mass destruction, which later was used as pretext for starting the war against that country] and everything associated with it as a far-fetched pretext for invading Iraq,” Naryshkin said.

He noted that the situation in Syria remained very complex. “If military force is used from the outside, this will cause serious harm to the United Nations Organisation and the entire system of global security,” the speaker warned.

He recalled that at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg last week, more countries opposed the use of force against Syria than supported it.

State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Alexei Pushkov said earlier that “we have already started drafting a State Duma statement just in case the United States starts a military operation against Syria. I think that if the operation starts next week, the deputies will adopt the statement next week as well.”

He did not elaborate on the document and only said that the “work has just started.”

At the same time, Pushkov is confident that the U.S. will use force against Syria. “Everything indicates that the U.S. Congress will support President Barack Obama and his intention to deliver a strike on Syria. Moreover, the congressional hearings may produce an even worse version of the American invasion - while initially the U.S. administration considered a brief three-day operation, now they are talking about a massive military strike to destroy Syria’s military capability and it may last up to 60 days,” the MP said.

The latter version is supported by Senator John McCain who lost the presidential election to Obama six years ago. “This gives us the impression that as far as Syria is concerned Obama sides completely with McCain and his political opponents who are called ‘a party of war’. This ‘party of war’ is starting to gain the upper hand in U.S. Congress,” Pushkov said.

He described as “downright bad signal” the fact that the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee had already approved a resolution authorising the use of force against Syria, and that the speakers of both houses of the U.S. Congress had supported it too. “The nature of the discussion in Congress is such that it leads one to believe that the Obama administration has decided to get the go-ahead for the armed operation in Syria at all costs,” the MP said.

He warned about “catastrophic consequences” of a possible U.S. military operation in Syria. “We can foresee the consequences already now: all American operations, starting with the Iraqi war, have led to catastrophes in the countries and regions where they took place. Syria will not be an exception,” he said.

The U.S. aggression will not solve anything but will only exacerbate the already complex situation in Syria, Pushkov said. “I think we will see yet another confirmation that the U.S. can only create chaos,” he added.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 4 approved a resolution that will authorise the use of force against Syria.

Now the resolution passed by a 10-7 vote with one abstention is to be considered by the Senate.

On August 31, the draft resolution authorising the use of force against Syria was sent by the White House to Congress. On September 3, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee drafted its own version of the resolution. It gives 60 days for the operation in Syria from the day when the resolution is passed, and this period may be extended for 30 more days. At the same time, it prohibits the use of the U.S. Army in Syria.

The resolution says that the strikes would aim to deter potential future uses of weapons of mass destruction by the Syrian government and undermine its ability to use them. The document says that the strikes have to be delivered at legitimate military targets in Styria.

No later than a month after the entry into force of the resolution, the U.S. president will have to provide the Congress with an integrated government strategy aimed at achieving a negotiated political settlement in Syria.

The president will be required to send a progress report on the operation in Syria to the Congress within ten days after its start and provide updates every 20 days thereafter.

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