Russia has expressed its concern to Washington that the United States will respond militarily to a suspected chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces and urged restraint, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Referring to a telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday, the ministry said Moscow had also urged Washington to refrain from falling for “provocations”.
“The minister (Lavrov) stressed that the official announcements from Washington in recent days about the readiness of U.S. armed forces to ‘intervene’ in the Syrian conflict have been received in Moscow with deep concern,” the ministry said in a statement.
U.S. remarks that Syria’s agreement to allow the United Nations to inspect the site of the suspected chemical weapons attack was “too late to be credible” appeared to signal a military response was more likely.
A senior senator said he believed President Barack Obama would ask for authorisation to use force when Congress returned from recess next month.
But Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has suggested rebels may have been behind the alleged chemical weapons attack.
“In connection with this, the Russian side calls for (Washington to) refrain from the threat of force on Damascus, to not fall for provocations and to try to help create normal conditions to give the U.N. chemical experts’ mission, which is already in the country, the possibility of conducting a thorough, objective and impartial investigation,” the statement said.
Turkey however would join any international coalition against Syria even if a wider consensus on action cannot be reached at the U.N. Security Council, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying on Monday.
“We always prioritise acting together with the international community, with United Nations decisions. If such a decision doesn’t emerge from the U.N. Security Council, other alternatives … would come onto the agenda,” Davutoglu told the Milliyet daily.
“Currently 36-37 countries are discussing these alternatives. If a coalition is formed against Syria in this process, Turkey would take its place in this coalition.”
Turkey has emerged as one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most vocal critics during the two-and-a-half year conflict, sheltering half a million refugees and allowing the opposition to organise on its soil.
The NATO member has criticised world powers for failing to take a decisive stance. The U.N. Security Council has been hamstrung by the opposition of veto-wielding members, Russia and China, to any firm action.
“From the outset, Turkey has argued that the international community must not stand by in the face of the Assad regime’s massacres,” Davutoglu said.
“Leaving unpunished leaders and regimes which resort to such practices undermines the deterrence of the international community. Those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity must definitely be punished.”
The French foreign minister said on Monday no decision had been made yet on whether to take military action against Syria, but doing so outside the auspices of the U.N. Security Council would be problematic.
“It is a problem that will be difficult,” Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio.
“International law is defined by the United Nations, but at same time there are countries (on the council) that are blocking (military action)- China and Russia have blocked and would probably block again so it would be a problem.”
“In certain circumstances we can bypass it, but international law does exist,” he said without elaborating.
All options on how to respond to the poison gas attack in the Damascus suburbs were still open. “The only one that is not on the table is to not do anything,” he added.