Syria crisis: Russia and China step up warning over strike

UN weapons inspectors in the western district of Muadhamiya. 26 Aug 2013 The UN team spoke to witnesses and survivors in Muadhamiya

Russia and China have stepped up their warnings against military intervention in Syria, with Moscow saying any such action would have "catastrophic consequences" for the region.

The US and its allies are considering launching strikes on Syria in response to deadly attacks last week.

The US said there was "undeniable" proof of a chemical attack, on Monday.

UN chemical weapons inspectors are due to start a second day of investigations in the suburbs of Damascus.

The UN team came under sniper fire as they tried to visit an area west of the city on Monday.

A spokesman for UK Prime Minister David Cameron says the UK is making contingency plans for military action in Syria.

Mr Cameron has cut short his holiday and returned to London to deal with the Syrian crisis.

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The administration has deliberately left itself almost no room for manoeuvre - its credibility would now be zero if it failed to take some form of military action”

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Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich has called on the international community to show "prudence" over the crisis and observe international law.

"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," he said in a statement.

Late on Monday, the US said it was postponing a meeting on Syria with Russian diplomats, citing "ongoing consultations" about alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Hours later, Russia expressed regret about the decision. The two sides had been due to meet in The Hague on Wednesday to discuss setting up an international conference on finding a political solution to the crisis.

The Russian deputy defence minister, Gennady Gatilov said working out the political parameters for a resolution on Syria would be especially useful, with the threat of force hanging over the country.

Residents gather around a convoy of UN vehicles carrying a team of UN chemical weapons experts at one of the sites of an alleged poison gas attack in the Damascus suburb of Muadhamiya on 26 August 2013 UN chemical weapons inspectors spent nearly three hours in the suburb of Muadhamiya in western Damascus on Monday.
Image taken from amateur video footage, a UN inspector, right, speaks to a man about the alleged chemical weapon attack at a makeshift hospital in Muadhamiya, Damascus, on 26 August 2013 The inspectors visited two hospitals and interviewed survivors, eyewitnesses and doctors over last week's suspected chemical attack near the Syrian capital.
Still from amateur video posted online shows a presumed UN staff member measuring and photographing a canister in the suburb of Muadhamiya in Damascus on 26 August 2013 Amateur video was posted online apparently showing a UN inspector measuring and photographing a canister.

On Monday, Mr Cameron spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin who said there was no evidence yet that Syria had used chemical weapons against rebels, Mr Cameron's office said.

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said Western powers were rushing to conclusions about who may have used chemical weapons in Syria before UN inspectors had completed their investigation.

UN visit

Both the Syrian government and rebels have blamed each other for last Wednesday's attacks.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said three hospitals it supported in the Damascus area had treated about 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms", of whom 355 had died.

Models for possible intervention

  • Iraq 1991: US-led global military coalition, anchored in international law; explicit mandate from UN Security Council to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait
  • Balkans 1990s: US arms supplied to anti-Serb resistance in Croatia and Bosnia in defiance of UN-mandated embargo; later US-led air campaign against Serb paramilitaries. In 1999, US jets provided bulk of 38,000 Nato sorties against Serbia to prevent massacres in Kosovo - legally controversial with UN Security Council resolutions linked to "enforcement measures"
  • Somalia 1992-93: UN Security Council authorised creation of international force with aim of facilitating humanitarian supplies as Somali state failed. Gradual US military involvement without clear objective culminated in Black Hawk Down disaster in 1993. US troops pulled out
  • Libya 2011: France and UK sought UN Security Council authorisation for humanitarian operation in Benghazi in 2011. Russia and China abstained but did not veto resolution. Air offensive continued until fall of Gaddafi

US officials said there was "little doubt" that President Bashar al-Assad's government was to blame.

UN inspectors spent nearly three hours in the western district of Muadhamiya on Monday where they visited two hospitals and interviewed survivors, eyewitnesses and doctors.

A UN spokesman said they had collected some samples.

Earlier in the day, the UN convoy came under fire from unidentified snipers and was forced to turn back before resuming its journey.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the shooting and asked the UN team in Syria to register a complaint.


In the most forceful US reaction yet, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday described the recent attacks in the Damascus area as a "moral obscenity".

He said the delay in allowing UN inspectors to the sites was a sign the Syrian government had something to hide.

He said Washington had additional information about the attacks that it would make public in the days ahead.

"What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality," Mr Kerry said at a news conference on Monday.

"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."

John Kerry: "There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons"

Washington has recently bolstered its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean and military leaders from the US, UK and their allies have convened a meeting in Jordan.

Analysts believe the most likely US action would be sea-launched cruise missiles targeting Syrian military installations.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Monday the West had not produced any proof that President Assad's forces had used chemical weapons.

He was responding to suggestions from some Western countries that military action against the Syrian government could be taken without a UN mandate.

Mr Lavrov said the use of force without Security Council backing would be "a crude violation of international law".

Earlier, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC an international military response to the suspected use of chemical weapons would be possible without the backing of the UN.

The UN Security Council is divided, with Russia and China opposing military intervention and the UK and France warning that the UN could be bypassed if there was "great humanitarian need".

In a column in The Times newspaper, former UK PM Tony Blair has written that if the West does not intervene to support freedom and democracy in Egypt and Syria, the Middle East will face catastrophe

The UN says more than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began more than two years ago. The conflict has produced more than 1.7 million registered refugees.

Map showing the areas where the alleged chemical attacks took place in Syria

More on This Story

Syria conflict


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  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    I do not dispute that chemical weapons may have been used in Syria. The question is- who authorized there use?

    It has to be someone who is intent on War, irrelevant of findings and proof.

    At the moment my eyes are watching only the area located between the Pacific to it's West and the Atlantic to it's right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    This is almost like a return to the Cold War. Whilst the actions of China and Russia in supporting the Assad regime are indefensible, I agree with Russia, we should not get involved, as it will result in the death of many more people, innocent or otherwise and we have no idea or control over what will subsequently follow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    No one in this country wants to see these poor people gassed and bombed, but no one wants to go to war anymore, we are sick of it seeing our guys coming home dead and injured.
    Russia is supposed to be Syria's big ally, let them take the lead for once.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    This is nothing to do with us, our interests and security aren't threatened. It's not worth one British soldier or Pilots life. In any case the alternative to Asaad is probably even worse! Our military is overstretched due to successive govts cuts as it is. When I heard that Blair favours military action that was the final decider for me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Pressed a positive arrow up and nothing happened,pressed a negative arrow down and it added two positives?
    Is it me & my computer?
    The technical error pattern points to "keep out"of Syria?

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Why all the propaganda for another military adventure the British public do not want our troops involved in. Whats the game plan anyway? there is not Western interest in backing the Al Nursa Jihadists killing Christians ethnically cleansing Kurds. The West would be better arming the Kurds to the teeth & letting them deal with the Jihadists BBC you reported the fighting between the two on 19.8.13.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Not in my name. This is insanity to punish an unproven crime. Action that achieves something is one thing but more killing just to be seen to be doing something is puerile.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    The fact that UK and US are backing these "Rebels" is absolutely shameful. Christians and moderate Muslims are being slaughtered in Iraq and Syria by these extremists and an attack on Syria will surely tip the balance in their favour. Should the US and UK arm the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as well? This chemical attack is a farce, why would Assad launch a chemical attack now? It defies all logic

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I can't believe some peoples comments on this issue. The main issue is that innocent people are being murdered. Women and children are dieing in horrible ways. 'Oh but they are Arabs so let them sort it out'. What a ridiculous thing to say. We should protect the innocent in every way possible, its our moral responsibility to defend people who can't defend themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Perhaps it's time to question the UN as the final authority in regards to humanitarian intervention operations. There's been so many screw-ups - the Rwanda genocide, Bosnian civilians being disarmed and then slaughtered right at the doorstep of the UN troops who were unable to protect them due to their orders (and with the French leaking intel to the Serbs), Somalia, Korea. When will it end?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    From what I can see both sides are as bad as each other.

    The only real solution is to fight all of them and install a new government to sort them out.

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    What did we solve in Lybia? Bombs are still going off?

    We'll send our troops on patrol to an already flattened country for years to come.

    We'll then partly foot bill for rebuilding their war torn country. Suppose large building corporations in bed with the government will also get the re-building contracts.

    Every recession need a war.

    Wake up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    And bombing it will obviously help so much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Blair's for intervention, ergo it's the wrong thing to do. If you diametrically oppose Blair then there's good chance you'll be doing the right thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.


  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    It doesn't matter whether you kill people with nerve gas or conventional weapons. But I don't believe the life of one British service men is worth the life of 1 million Syrians. All those who believe we should intervene, should be the first across their in the front line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Regardless of race or religion, we must find it in our hearts to pray for those afflicted by this awful war.

    "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."

    Matthew 5:38-45

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    It would appear we, and the US and A are about the get our ass' kicked.


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