Russia Mulls Sending Troops to 'Monitor' Syrian Chemical Weapons
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has suggested his country could send a small contingent of military personnel to monitor the handover of Syrian chemical weapons to international observers.
Under the terms of a Russian-brokered deal, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad would avoid western military strikes in response to a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus which killed more than 1,000 people, by agreeing to hand over its entire chemical arsenal to international monitors. Following a comprehensive handover, the weapons would then be destroyed.
According to the BBC, in an interview with the pro-Kremlin First Channel, Lavrov suggested that Arab and Turkish personnel could also play an active part in such a mission.
It comes just days after the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed that the Assad regime had met a Friday deadline to hand over data concerning its chemical weapons stockpile. The Russian government had previously warned it could remove its support for Assad if he did not comply fully with the terms of the deal.
The Kremlin has stood firmly behind the Syrian government throughout the two and a half year civil war which has killed at least 100,000 people. Apart from military hardware, the Russian government also provides Damascus with crucial diplomatic support, particularly within the United Nations Security Council, where it wields veto powers along with another key Syrian ally, China.
Lavrov's involvement in the recent crisis over chemical weapons use in Syria has become increasingly high profile. The Russian deal - which Lavrov himself initiated - has been seen as a clever piece of political maneuvering by the Russian Foreign Minister, offering Washington a way out of an increasingly embarrassing volt-face and simultaneously bolstering Russia's role in mediating a solution to the conflict.
In the interview, Lavrov also took the opportunity to blast "arrogant" western nations for putting the chemical weapons deal in "jeopardy" by insisting on foreign intervention. He claimed western states were "blinded" by their fixation on imposing a regime change in Syria.