News / Europe

Russia Warns West Against Military Action in Syria

U.N. chemical weapons experts visit a hospital where wounded people affected by a suspected gas attack are being treated, in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya, Aug. 26, 2013.
U.N. chemical weapons experts visit a hospital where wounded people affected by a suspected gas attack are being treated, in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya, Aug. 26, 2013.
Selah Hennessy
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on Western states to “avoid past mistakes” and not take military action in Syria. But European governments are considering their response after hundreds of civilians were allegedly killed by Syrian government forces near Damascus last week in a chemical weapons attack.

Lavrov said military intervention against the government  without the approval of the United Nations would be a “gross violation of international law.”

He made the comments at a press conference only hours after Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that an international response to the Syrian crisis would be possible without unanimous U.N. Security Council backing.

“Is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity at the U.N. Security Council? I would argue yes, it is," he said. "Otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, such crimes.”

He said diplomatic pressure has so far failed to resolve Syria’s conflict and that it must be made clear that chemical weapons cannot be used “with impunity.”

Meanwhile Hague’s counterpart in France, Laurent Fabius, said France was willing to join an international coalition against Syria without Security Council unity.

But speaking on Europe 1 Radio, he said a decision to take military action in Syria has not yet been made.

U.N. arms investigators are gathering evidence related to an alleged chemical weapons attack that took place last Wednesday, in which hundreds of people were killed.

Both sides in Syria’s ongoing conflict have denied responsibility.

Britain and France have said they believe government forces carried out the alleged chemical attack, while a United States government spokesperson has said the U.S. has "very little doubt" that President Bashar al-Assad's forces are responsible.

Assad said the allegations are “politically motivated”. At the press conference Monday, Russia’s Lavrov said Washington, London, and Paris had produced no evidence that the Syrian authorities were guilty of a chemical attack.  

Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Syria who is now a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, said European leaders still hope to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

“The main thing now is to see if in the coming few days a last attempt at diplomacy can be made and if Russia can be convinced that pressure on the Assad regime would be better than the alternative,” he said.

Pierini said conclusive evidence from the U.N. weapons inspectors could help unify the Security Council, but says complete unity among council members is unlikely in any case.

“The evidence is there, so I am quite convinced that there will be action even without Security Council approval,” he added.

He said Western governments may consider launching missile attacks against the Syrian regime, but added that there is limited popular support for broader military intervention. 

“It all depends on the way it is done. There is an overwhelming lack of support for any ground troops - that would certainly be a major political problem for any of the European countries and for the U.S. - but that is not what we are talking about,” said Pierini.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders says more around 3,600 patients were hospitalized with "neurotoxin symptoms" following last week’s attack. It said 355 people died.

Since Syria’s conflict began, Syria’s allies Russia and China have repeatedly blocked U.N. Security Council sanctions against Assad’s government.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid