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MOSCOW, September 16 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian-US agreement putting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control has not only saved Damascus from air strikes, but breathed a new life into Russian-US relations, which had been pretty close to the absolute freezing point, experts say. However, even international control of Damascus’ chemical weapons does not spell a solution of the Syrian crisis yet.
That agreement and also Russian President Vladimir Putin’s article in The New York Times, in which he explained Russia’s stance on the Syrian crisis, triggered an intensive bilateral dialogue. US President Barack Obama welcomed the Lavrov-Kerry agreement, but at the same time he warned that if diplomatic efforts failed, the United States would be prepared to act.
House of Representatives member Steve Israel (of New York), dispatched to Russia’s daily Kommersant an open letter to the people of Russia - a sort of reply to Vladimir Putin’s article. In his message the influential US politician warned the Kremlin against premature euphoria about the outlook for a peace solution of the Syrian chemical weapons problem.
TV host Vladimir Solovyov has invited Republican Senator John McCain to discuss Syria in his Sunday night talk show on a federal news channel.
The deputy president of the Russia-USA association, MGIMO university professor Sergei Oznobishchev believes that Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry showed that Russia and the United States were capable of addressing the problems of today and confronting challenges again. In an interview to ITAR-TASS Oznobishchev said that “the resumption of Russian-US relations, still dominated by distrust, will help find a way out of dead ends in today’s globalized world.”
The expert believes it is very important the efforts to overcome the Syrian crisis are back on the track of international law. He recalled that Russia’s former Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, had been urging the United States way before the war in Iraq not to deal strikes on Baghdad without a UN Security Council resolution. “The general deplorable similarity of the events of ten days ago in Iraq and the current situation involving Syria is seen in the stalled mechanism of the UN Security Council, where Russia and China have the right to veto epoch-making resolutions,” Oznobishchev said. “The UN Security Council is now regaining the once-lost positions.”
The Russian press has described as historic - without a pinch of irony - the agreement to put Syrian chemical warfare agents under control that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry achieved in Geneva on Saturday, September 14.
It is quite significant that even the Kremlin’s irreconcilable opponent John McCain had to take a look back on history. In a Sunday interview to the NBC television network McCain criticized the Russian-US accord on Syria, because, he claimed, in the Middle East Russia now gained a position it had not had since the 1970s. In a word, even McCain, a hard-line hawk, has indirectly recognized Russia’s return to the international scene as a global player, with a status the Soviet Union enjoyed in its day.
The White House has benefited from the Lavrov-Kerry agreement, too. The US president will certainly have no fear of impeachment that might follow in case he went to war with Syria without gaining congressional support first.
The Syrian Opposition was the sole loser. The Free Syrian Army has dismissed the plan mapped out in Geneva. The national coalition of the oppositional and revolutionary forces has demanded that the Syrian government should be banned from having not only chemical weapons, but also combat aircraft and ballistic missiles. Salim Idris, the SFA commander, has described the agreement as a blow on the hopes of the Opposition. He will go ahead with the fighting, although he has not refused to help with ensuring the safety of UN inspectors. Kasim Saadeddin, the militants’ commander in the north of Syria, said that his groups would do nothing to ensure the safety of UN chemical weapons’ experts, the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.
As for the very problem of putting Bashar Assad’s weapons under control, it is very complex, indeed, even despite the well-oiled procedures the experts have developed, says Oznobishchev. “Any instigator in Syria may open fire on UN inspectors or attack the chemical weapons depots. Unprecedented security measures must be taken to ensure the Lavrov-Kerry accord should not be disrupted,” the analyst said.
“The feeling of joy at the breakthrough Russia and the United States have achieved is blended with bitterness from the awareness the establishment of international control of Damascus’ chemical weapons does not spell the solution of the Syrian crisis yet. The sanguinary civil war in the country is continuing. Achieving peace in Syria would take tremendous international effort, including that by Russia and the United States. The rival parties must be brought to the negotiating table to prepare conditions for convening the Geneva-2 conference.