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MOSCOW, November 12. /TASS/. The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group and other radical groups in the Middle East have access to chemical warfare agents, including mustard gas, and are using them, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a press briefing on Thursday.
"Islamic State and some other radical Islamist groups in the Middle East have indeed gained access to the components and technologies for the production of chemical weapons and began using them more actively in Syria and Iraq," the diplomat said.
"If earlier we talked about the use of household and industrial chlorine by them as chemical weapons, now there is verified information about the use of warfare poisonous agents, including mustard gas," Zakharova said.
Zakharova noted that there was some information about the use of this gas not only in the fighting against the government forces, but also for carrying out terrorist attacks against the civilian population. "This gas is also used for the purposes of provocation to blame the government for that," she added.
The Foreign Ministry spokesperson recalled that the instances of the possible use of warfare poisonous agents are registered in a special report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). "It refers, in particular, to the use of mustard gas in populated localities near Aleppo in August," she said.
Zakharova stressed that US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s statements to the effect that Russia allegedly undermines international stability are far from reality, and Moscow strongly denies such accusations.
"In diplomatic words, such statements are far from reality. We strongly deny such accusations," she said. "Russia’s steps in the sphere of boosting defence are largely caused by the US activity, including the American nuclear potential improvement, deployment of the global missile defence system with a view to upsetting the strategic parity and bringing NATO infrastructure closer to Russian borders."
"We cannot remain indifferent to this or ignore the attempts to undermine our security," Zakharova said.
"We have repeatedly pointed to Washington’s involvement in illegal methods of regime change in a number of countries, which, in particular, led to the tragic consequences, for example, in Ukraine. If we look back a little further, who else but Washington invaded Iraq under a false pretense. This is not exactly what one calls global stability," she noted.
Speaking at a conference in Simi Valley, California, on November 7, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that Washington was "searching for creative ways to deter Russian aggression and protest US allies."
"In Europe, Russia has been violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia and actively trying to intimidate the Baltic states," he said. "Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia is throwing gasoline on an already dangerous fire, prolonging a civil war that fuels the very extremism Russia claims to oppose."
According to Carter, the most disturbing is "Moscow's nuclear saber-rattling," which "raises questions about Russian leaders' commitment to strategic stability."
According to the ministry reports about a document on the settlement in Syria allegedly proposed by Russia are "juggling with facts" and do not conform to reality.
"We are indeed working our partners, we hold consultations, but we are not talking about a formalized document," she said.
Zakharova noted that these speculations had coincided in time with the launch of the US-initiated working groups on the settlement in Syria in Vienna. "I have no doubt that it was orchestrated in advance," she added.
Zakharova also said that the relevant clarifications regarding the alleged document had been given to foreign journalists in the course of preparation of the material on the topic, but they were not reflected in any way in the final publication.
Zakharova said Moscow would like to remind Washington that the Vienna declaration on Syria denounces any ready-made external solutions.
"The US embassy in Moscow has recently informed the Russian Foreign Ministry by e-mail that working groups on Syria are being set up in Vienna. The initiative came as a great surprise. No one had held any preliminary discussions with us," the Russian diplomat went on to say.
"We have never been in contact on this issue and we have never discussed the agenda for the groups; their venue and participants. In addition to that, the tasks of these groups are also unclear," Zakharova said.
"We agreed to abide by the Vienna declaration adopted on October 30 which said the political process should be in the hands of the Syrians. The document excluded any attempts of ready-made external solutions," the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
Representatives of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Italy and the European Union have been left overboard, Zakarova said when commenting on the Vienna working groups on Syria.
"None of these groups provides for participation of countries like Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Italy and the European Union," she added. "The door has been shut to these players, and the format of their participation has arbitrarily been restricted," the Russian diplomat said.
Moscow does not accept imposition of ways of Syrian crisis settlement and unilateral action in this process in conditions when the Vienna format exists. Maria Zakharova commented on the launch of subgroups on the Syrian settlement in the Austrian capital at the US initiative.
"The US hastily organized the work of working subgroups on Syria in Vienna on November 12-13," she said. "This was done without consultations with Russia," she said, noting that attempts were clearly seen "to divide participants in the process of the Syrian settlement into those leading and those being led".
"We cannot accept such rules of the game," the spokeswoman said.
The format of these groups’ activity remained unclear for Russia, she said. "We consider these actions by the US as an unsuccessful experiment," she added.
"We urge all partners to coordinated teamwork on the basis of the already fixed mutually understanding without such unilateral improvisation, without flash-forward and excessive haste that only harms the cause," she continued.
"We have outlined a plan, we have outlined it in Vienna collectively, it was coordinated among all participants, it is necessary to stick to the reached agreements," Zakharova said.
"This is the kind of teamwork that the Russian delegation heading to a ministerial session in Vienna seeks," she continued.
According to Zakharova, the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should not be a topic for discussion at the Vienna meeting. It is necessary to agree on the lists of terrorists and opposition groups, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson said said.
"One of the achievements and very wise steps which the countries made in Vienna was to realize that the problem of Assad’s future should be taken out of context. That was done, among other things, on the basis of the Geneva communique, which said it was up to the Syrian people to solve this problem. Syria’s future is in the hands of the Syrian people," Zakharova stressed.
She added it was a wise approach given that several countries were holding diametrically opposite stances on that problem.
"We should focus on blocs (of issues) that will lay down the foundation for the Syrian settlement," the Russian diplomat stressed.
"We believe that it is necessary to agree on the lists of terrorists and opposition groups to be able to negotiate political transition with Damascus. The forthcoming meeting in Vienna should focus on these two components," Zakharova said.
"That is why we have motivated our colleagues - both publicly and through diplomatic channels - to ‘do some homework’: to reach consent on the issues mentioned above and submit them for discussion to the ministerial meeting after they have been addressed," the Russian diplomat concluded.