Russia says attack on Syria would be ‘catastrophic’

Photo: AFP

Russia warned that a military intervention in Syria could have "catastrophic consequences" on Tuesday and called on Western powers to show "prudence" over the crisis, as the UK military began to draw up contingency plans for a possible attack.


Russia on Tuesday said that an intervention in Syria could have "catastrophic consequences" for the region and called on the international community to show "prudence", as Britain said its military was drawing up contingency plans for a possible military attack on the country.

"Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa," a Russian foreign ministry spokesman said.

"We are calling on our American partners and all members of the world community to demonstrate prudence [and] strict observance of international law, especially the fundamental principles of the UN Charter," spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

The warning came as Britain’s prime ministerial office announced its army was drawing up contingency plans for a possible intervention in the country following a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on August 21.

"We are continuing to discuss with our international partners what the right response should be, but, as part of this, we are making contingency plans for the armed forces," Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said.

Cameron will decide later on Tuesday whether to recall lawmakers from their summer break to debate a possible military intervention, Downing Street said.

Russian regret

Earlier in the day Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that Moscow regretted Monday's decision by the US to postpone a meeting on the Syria crisis, as Western powers mulled military action over last week's chemical attack in Syria.

The scrapping of the meeting, which was due to take place at The Hague later in the week, is the latest sign of a new peak in tensions between Moscow and the West over the possibility of military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's regime. “It arouses regret that our partners decided to cancel the bilateral meeting”, Gatilov said in a tweet.

"Working out the parameters of a political solution in Syria would have been especially helpful right now, when military action is hanging over this country," Gatilov said.

In such a climate, it was especially important to work in concert to try to organise the repeatedly postponed peace conference bringing together the Damascus regime and the rebels, Lukashevich said.

"However, the United States' decision to postpone the meeting in The Hague is sending precisely the opposite signal to the opposition, encouraging their intransigence as they await outside intervention," he said.

Lukashevich said convening the peace conference was now a "most urgent task."

‘Return of Bush and Blair’

Britain’s Cameron was expected to confer with US President Barack Obama on Monday on a "proportionate response" to the gas attack last week.

Russian officials are now comparing the possible use of force against Syria to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, which was vehemently opposed by Moscow as based on flawed intelligence that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"Déjà-vu," Alexei Pushkov, the head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee wrote on Twitter.

"It feels like in the White House it's still [George W.] Bush, [Dick] Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld and in Downing Street Tony Blair," he said, referring to the former US president, vice president, defence secretary and British premier during the Iraq war.

"The faces change. But not the politics," he added.

Chemical attack ‘moral obscenity’

Russia said it believes rebels were behind the chemical attack and has warned any military action without UN approval would violate international law.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the "hysteria" over the claimed chemical attack and said the West had yet to come up with proof that Assad's regime was behind it.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington would provide more evidence of who was behind the attacks.

"Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity," said Kerry.

"We have additional information about this attack, and that information is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners, and we will provide that information in the days ahead.

"Make no mistake. President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people."

Pro-Kremlin Russian newspaper Izvestia published an interview on Monday with Assad who ridiculed as "nonsense" the idea his regime used chemical weapons and warned the United States of failure if it attacked Syria.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)



Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning