MOSCOW, June 15 (RIA Novosti) – The creation of a no-fly zone in war-torn Syria would contravene international law, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday, amid media speculation that the US plans to do just that.
“You don’t have to be a great expert to realize that this will be a violation of international law. We hope our American colleagues will direct all their practical activity into implementing a joint US-Russian initiative to convene a conference devoted to improving the situation in Syria,” Lavrov said after meeting with his Italian counterpart.
Media reports on Friday cited unidentified Western diplomats as saying that the US, which said this week that it would provide military support to the Syrian opposition, was considering establishing a no-fly zone in Syria. US fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles were sent to Syria’s neighbor Jordan earlier this month for military exercises.
The US said this week that it had clear evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government had used chemical weapons against the rebels. The claim was supported by Britain, but dismissed as “unconvincing” on Friday by Russia, which is widely viewed as an ally of Syria and has vetoed several Western-backed UN Security Council resolutions aimed to pressure Assad into ending the use of force. Lavrov, who said Friday that the US decision to arm the rebels could lead to the further escalation of violence in the country, repeated Russia’s doubt over the chemical weapons claim on Saturday, saying it made no sense for the government to have used chemical warfare when it is gaining ground against the rebels.
“Our Western partners told us [earlier], yes, it’s probably not in the interests of the regime, but if it finds itself against the wall, then it could, out of desperation, use these weapons as a last resort. Right now the regime is not against the wall; the regime, as the opposition itself is saying, is seeing military success on the ground. Why would the regime use chemical weapons, especially in such small quantities [as is being claimed]? Just to expose itself? From a military point of view, it makes no sense,” Lavrov said.
Syria’s government denies having used chemical weapons and has in turn accused the rebels themselves of the same crime.
Last month, Russia and the US agreed to set up an international conference with the aim of ending the two-year conflict in Syria through dialogue between the two sides, but so far, no date or list of participants has been confirmed.