Syria Submits Revised Proposal to OPCW for Removal of Chemicals

The Syrian Arab Republic has submitted Tuesday, 04 March 2014,  to the OPCW a revised proposal that aims to complete the removal of all chemicals from Syria before the end of April 2014., a statement released by OPCW stated.

The OPCW-UN Joint Mission also verified that two more consignments of chemicals have left the port of Latakia, including a quantity of mustard gas - a Priority 1 chemical - which was previously reported last Wednesday. Another movement, a significant consignment of other Priority 1 chemicals, is scheduled to arrive in Latakia during this week, which will bring the total number of movements thus far to six.

The six movements represent more than 35% of all chemicals that must be removed from Syria for destruction, including 23% of Priority 1 chemicals and 63% of Priority 2 chemicals. In addition, the OPCW has verified that Syria has destroyed in situ more than 93% of its stock of isopropanol.

In his report to the opening session of the Executive Council, Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said that all materials and equipment required by Syria are now in place for the expeditious removal of its remaining chemicals, including armoured jackets for the protection of containers.

“Given delays since the lapse of the two target dates for removal, it will be important to maintain this newly created momentum,” the Director-General told the Council. “For its part, the Syrian Government has reaffirmed its commitment to implement the removal operations in a timely manner.”

The Special Coordinator for the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, Ms Sigrid Kaag, also briefed the Council on recent progress in the Syria mission.

"Nearly one third of Syria's chemical weapons material has now been removed or destroyed," the Special Coordinator told the Council. "This is good progress and I expect further acceleration and intensification of effort."

Prior to initiating operations in January to remove its chemicals, in late 2013 Syria completed the functional destruction of its chemical weapons production facilities, mixing and filling equipment, and all of its munitions that were designed for use with chemical warfare agents.

M.A.

Kerry's threats vs Russia unacceptable,West sides with neo-Nazis - Russian FM

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said “unacceptable threats” by US Secretary of State John Kerry over Crimea failed to take into account the violent power seizure in Kiev carried out by radicals.

In the statement released Monday and published by RT (Russian TV), the ministry said Kerry’s “Cold War” rhetoric would do nothing to punish “radical extremists” who carried out the coup, but rather sought to put the focus on Russia. It was also critical of the G7’s decision to suspend preparations for the upcoming G8 summit in Sochi, saying the move was unjustified.

The Foreign Ministry accused Washington and its allies of turning a blind eye to the excesses of what it called militant, Russophobic and anti-Semitic forces operating on Kiev’s central Independence Square, which pushed for the ouster of Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovych last month.

“Not bothering to make any effort to understand the complex processes occurring within Ukrainian society or make an objective assessment of the environment, which is furthering the degradation following the forceful seizure of power in Kiev by radical extremists, [Secretary of State John Kerry] operates with a ‘Cold War’ stamp, offering not to punish those who carried out the government overthrow, but the Russian Federation,” the statement said.

"And while glossing over this, the USA and its allies have closed their eyes to the excesses of the radical fighters on Maidan, their bullying of political opponents and ordinary citizens, as well as their anti-Semitism and militant Russophobia.”

Moscow further accused European powers of standing idly by while the “newly born Kiev regime” trampled on the EU mediated agreement of February 21, in which Yanukovich reached a deal with the opposition to settle the crisis. The ministry noted the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland had signed off on the document which was thrown out of the window when opposition forces seized power the next day. In the process, the West has effectively allied itself with neo-Nazis who are smashing up Orthodox churches and synagogues while “declaring war on the Russian language.”

On Sunday, Kerry threatened to isolate Russia economically and politically for deploying troops in the Crimea to protect the majority Russian speaking population, which Moscow says is under threat.

"You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests,” Kerry said during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behaviour in the 21st century.”

“There could be certainly disruption of any of the normal trade routine, there could be business drawback on investment in the country,” he continued. “There could even be ultimately asset freezes, visa bans.”

G8 gambit

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich on Monday warned that suspending preparations for the upcoming Group of 8 summit in Sochi would not only damage the member states, but the entire international community.

"In connection with a number of well-known statements from Group of Eight members, the decision to suspend work within the framework of the Russian presidency in the international structure will motivate nothing,” the spokesman said.

“It is not only politically defective, but also contrary to the principles of constructive cooperation of this format, which is oriented towards using the combined potential of the G8 in the interests of development, global stability, and the fight against transnational challenges and threats.”

Lukashevich said that he hopes that as opposed to the prevailing politicized climate in some capitals, they member states would be able to continue working together in the G8.

“The Russian side is ready for this,” he said.

On Sunday, the G7 - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States - along with the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission condemned Russia for what it called a"clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

"Russia's actions in the Ukraine also contravene the principles and values on which the G-7 and the G-8 operate. As such, we have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion."

Kerry issued a starker warning, saying that not only the upcoming G8 summit in Sochi, but Russia’s membership in the global forum, were at risk.

“He is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues,” Kerry said. “He may find himself with asset freezes, on Russian business, American business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the ruble.”

The 40th G8 summit is to be held on June 4-5 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. If the meeting goes ahead, the leaders are expected to focus on responses to new global threats.

 

M.A.

Russian FM: West must set aside geopolitical games, keep in mind Ukraine's interests

 GENEVA-Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov has called on his Western partners to set aside geopolitical interests in relation to the situation in Ukraine and take into account the interests of the Ukrainian people, according to the Voice of Russia.

 "Those who try to interpret the situation as an act of aggression and threaten us with all sorts of sanctions and boycotts are the same our partners who persistently encouraged political forces close to them to deliver an ultimatum and refuse to negotiate, to ignore concerns of southern and eastern parts of Ukraine and as result it led to the polarization of Ukrainians," Lavrov said.

"We urge the West to show a responsible approach and set aside geopolitical interests and put in the highest consideration the interests of the Ukrainian people," he added, speaking at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

According to Lavrov, it’s necessary to bring into effect the terms of the agreements signed on February 21, including a Constitution reform which will be debated by all the Ukrainian regions and then put to a universal referendum.

Lavrov also said that Russia is against the use of human rights as a pretext for intervention with the purpose of a regime change, in Ukraine.

"Human rights is too serious an issue to use it in geopolitical games, for forcing your will on others, let alone operations to change regimes. The available experience shows that intervention under the pretext of defending the civilian population, which in reality leads to a change of regime, produces the opposite result and increases the suffering of civilians, depriving them of their right to life, which is a basic human right," Lavrov clarified.

Medvedev: Ukraine remains Russia’s important partner

Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on the Twitter micro blog on Monday that Ukraine remains Russia’s very important partner.

 “There are obligations, which were signed earlier and which should be carried out,” the Russian premier said.

H.M

Lavrov to Discuss Syria with UN's Ki-moon, Brahimi in Geneva

MOSCOW- The situation in Syria and efforts to resume talks of Geneva 2 conference will be the main issue to be discussed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Syria Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi during their meeting in Geneva on Monday at a human rights council session.

Lavrov is leaving for Geneva on Monday, where he will participate in the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Committee.

According to Itar Tass, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that human rights should not be used for changing legitimate governments.

"Any attempts to introduce political or economic sanctions under the pretence of human rights reasons are categorically unacceptable," the foreign ministry said. "We are confident that such sanctions can only exacerbate the situation in a country and facilitate further human rights violations."

H.M

Yanukovich denies ouster, says 'ashamed & guilty' for not preventing chaos

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich pledges to fight for Ukraine. He addressed a press conference in southern Russia, appearing in public for the first time since he fled Kiev amid bloody riots, according to Russian Television (RT).

Dozens of international reporters have flocked to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don after the fugitive Ukrainian president announced he would hold a press conference there.

Before anyone was allowed to ask questions, Yanukovich decided to set the record straight, saying he considers himself the only legitimate president of Ukraine.

“No one has ousted me,” he told reporters. “I had to leave Ukraine because of a direct threat to my life and the lives of my family.”

It is the current Ukrainian parliament that is “not legitimate,” the Ukrainian leader said, adding that the people who took power in Kiev are “spreading the propaganda of violence.”

“As you know, the power in Ukraine has been seized by nationalist fascist-like fellows representing the absolute minority of Ukrainians. The only existing way out of the situation is fulfilling all that was stipulated in the [February 21] agreement between the president of Ukraine and the opposition with participation of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, and a representative of the Russian Federation,” Yanukovich said.

He described the situation in Ukraine as “complete lawlessness,” “terror” and “chaos”, saying that the politicians, including MPs, have been threatened and are facing threats of violence. It has nothing to do with the unity government that was negotiated with the opposition, he added.

According to Yanukovich, the early Ukrainian elections announced for May 25 are also completely “illegitimate” and he will not take part in them.

Despite that, the ousted leader said he will “remain in politics,” “keep on fighting for the future of Ukraine” and return to his home country as soon as he receives “international safety guarantees.”

‘Irresponsible politics of the West’

Yanukovich left Ukraine’s capital Kiev amid the worst surge of violence in the country’s post-Soviet history, which left dozens of people dead and hundreds injured. The pro-Maidan opposition immediately capitalized on his absence from the city, dominating the parliament, which then voted to strip the president of his powers and announced early elections. It also placed the full blame for the tragic events in central Kiev on Yanukovich, making it a nearly indisputable allegation in local and Western media.

Yanukovich gave his own clear assessment of the events for the first time in weeks, drawing a very different picture. The violence and deaths in Ukraine are the “result of the irresponsible politics of the West, which has encouraged Maidan,” Yanukovich said.

US and other Western countries’ representatives “must take full responsibility” for the fact that the agreement between the president and the opposition leaders was not honored, he said.

There remains, however, a chance for the country to change its course and not to slip into chaos, Yanukovich said.

‘I lacked strength, I am sorry’

When asked if he feels ashamed of any of his own actions, Yanukovich replied that he feels both ashamed and sorry for “not having been able to stabilize the situations and stop the mayhem” in Ukraine.

“I want to apologize to the Ukrainian people for what has happened in Ukraine and that I lacked strength to maintain stability,” he said.

Yanukovich also apologized to the Ukrainian riot police, Berkut, for having to “suffer” while doing their duty of maintaining peace and order. Police officers were “burned and poured over by petrol bombs,” were “fired at and killed by rifles” but still stood their ground, he said.

The Ukrainian leader then said he had not given any order for police to fire live rounds until the rioters started using firearms, putting the officers’ lives under threat.

Yanukovich refused to comment on the Ukrainian parliament’s intention to try him in the International Criminal Court, saying that an independent investigation has to be carried out first. However, he stressed that “the scenario of bloodshed… was drafted not in Ukraine.”

‘Crimea part of Ukraine, Russian presence a rumor’

Even as Yanukovich was speaking, the situation in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking Autonomous Republic of Crimea was increasingly getting out of the capital’s control. The Crimean parliament was forming a new regional government while local "self-defense squads" started actively patrolling strategic sites to prevent provocations from Ukrainian radical groups.

Yanukovich said he understands the concerns of Crimeans, who want to “protect their homes and families” from “bandits.”

However, he then urged the people of Crimea not to let any bloodshed or civil war happen. Crimea must remain a part of Ukraine while maintaining broad autonomy, Yanukovich said.

The fugitive president ruled out any possibility that he will ask Russia for military help to resolve the situation there. Also, there is no confirmed information about Russia’s alleged military presence in the region, Yanukovich said.

“I do not have any such official information,” he said. “I did not have it back then [in Ukraine], and there isn’t any now. This all has been on the level of some rumors spread by somebody,” he told journalists.

Yanukovich made it to Russia from Crimea thanks to “patriotically-minded officers,” who helped to “save his life.” He has not yet met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but they have already talked over the phone.

When asked why he chose to leave Ukraine for Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovich said that he has “an old friend there,” who can provide him with a “temporary safe haven.”

‘Russia cannot abandon Ukraine’

Yanukovich received a lot of questions on Russia’s role and possible actions in the Ukrainian crisis.

While saying “it is not correct” to tell Moscow what to do, Yanukovich said he believes “Russia cannot abandon Ukraine to its fate and should use all possible means to prevent chaos and terror in its neighboring country.”

With that, Yanukovich made it clear he was “categorically against any intervention into Ukraine and breach of its territorial integrity.”

“The truth will prevail,” Yanukovich said in an emotional conclusion to his comments to journalists, urging the politicians that have seized power in Kiev to “leave” for the sake of the Ukrainian people.

So far, there has been no indication that the new Ukrainian authorities are considering returning to a dialogue with what they consider an overthrown rival. A Kiev court on Friday issued an order for Yanukovich’s arrest, while the Ukrainian parliament (the Verkhovna Rada) earlier voted in favor of trying him at the ICC in The Hague for alleged “crimes against humanity during the recent peaceful protests.”

M.A.

Lavrov, Kerry discussed the situation in Syria, Ukraine

MOSCOW, (ST ) _Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry, in a telephone call today discussed the situation in Syria and Ukraine, issues pertinent to settling issues in the Middle East and " some of the most pressing issues " on the bilateral agenda.

In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that " the foreign ministers of the two countries expressed in the telephone call today, at the initiative of the American side, a unified vision of the need to activate the direct talks between the parties to the crisis in Syria in Geneva”

 Concerning Ukraine, the Russian side renewed the " urgent need to restore the situation in Kiev to the legal status and implement the agreements signed on 21 February, including primarily the cessation of radical extremists and encourage national reconciliation, on the ground of serving the interests of all political forces and all Ukrainian areas  ".

A similar telephone call was made yesterday between Lavrov and Kerry at the initiative of the American side, during which the Russian side, stressed the need to implement all the agreements between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition, especially the agreement signed on February 21, certified by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Poland, and supported by the United States, and to provide guarantees of implementation.

T. Fateh

Russia to Expand Military Presence Abroad, Cooperate in Fight Against Piracy

The Russian Defense Ministry plans to expand the Russian military presence in several regions of the world, Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu has stated. Negotiations on creating military bases in countries of South-East Asia and Central America are under way. The Voice of Russia have discussed with experts the purposes and prospects of such an expansion, including in the framework of the international fight against piracy.

Currently, negotiations are held with a number of countries, in particular, with Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles and Singapore, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said recently. However, it should be clarified that the matter does not concern creating overseas military bases in the usual sense. The Ministry of Defence of Russia was more interested in support facilities for our naval fleet and long-range aviation in remote regions, head of the TASS editorial office of military news, Viktor Litovkin, told the Voice of Russia:

"Russian ships and submarines are now present in the World's Ocean – in the Atlantic, in Indian and Pacific Oceans, and in the Mediterranean.

Our long-range airplanes fly almost all over the world. They need to be refilled somewhere. Ships also need to replenish their supplies of water and fuel, and their crews need rest. We are not alone in our desire to have bases abroad. The USA has about eighty bases, where they have deployed not only combat service support operators, but entire contingents of the armed forces. We are not going to deploy large contingents far away from Russia."

Today, there is neither political expediency nor economic justification in the presence of large military contingents of Russia far abroad. On the other hand, siting of support bases in different points of the World Ocean can enhance the effectiveness of our country’s international cooperation in the fight against piracy, RIA Novosti military expert, Konstantin Bogdanov, says:

"Agreements with a group of countries on the use of their port infrastructure for calling, bunkering and refueling of our ships can really simplify forces maneuver between Russian bases on the territory of Russia and their presence in the areas where they solve problems of fighting against piracy, in particular, in the Horn of Africa. If Singapore and the Seychelles give us this opportunity, this will facilitate planning of operations on transferring the forces of the Pacific Fleet."

Today, from the point of view of experts, the most promising prospect is return of the Russian military to the Vietnamese Cam Ranh base. Last November, the presidents of Russia and Vietnam signed an agreement on creating a joint submarines’ maintenance center there. Besides, there is an international airport in Cam Ranh, which in case of a necessity is able to accommodate airplanes of the Russian Air Forces, including long-range aviation.

Source: Voice of Russia

R.S

Moscow Concerned over News on Saudi Arabia’s Plan to Buy Weapons for "Armed Opposition" in Syria

MOSCOW- Russia is concerned over media reports about Saudi Arabia’s plans to buy shoulder-fired missile weapons to support the "armed Syrian opposition", the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, according to Itar Tass.

“We are deeply worried over media reports citing the gulfnews.com website that Saudi Arabia plans to buy Pakistan-made shoulder-fired missile and anti-tank systems to send them to the Syrian armed opposition groups based in Jordan,” the ministry said.

“According to media reports, this deal is called to change the balance of forces in favor of gunmen in the course of the spring attack by illegal armed formations on Damascus from the southern front,” the ministry noted.

“If such weapons are in the hands of extremists and terrorists Syria is inundated with, the risk is high that such weapons in the long run will be used far beyond the boundaries of that Middle East state,” the ministry said.

“We are also worried over media reports that Jordan’s territory is used to transit weapons to armed groups and to train gunmen at training camps ahead of the launching of the above mentioned spring attacks in the southern front against the Syrian government forces,” the ministry added.

Saudi Arabia has been the main supplier of weapons and funds to the armed groups inside Syria.

 

H.M