Syrian crisis: Are there shades of international legitimacy?

There is no rationale in government forces using chemical weapons just at the very moment when the UN fact-finding mission arrived in Syria. Source: AFP / East News

There is no rationale in government forces using chemical weapons just at the very moment when the UN fact-finding mission arrived in Syria. Source: AFP / East News

No reliable and persuasive evidence has been produced to confirm that chemical weapons were used, let alone who did it.

Some western states have said that they have conclusive information and evidence that the Syrian authorities were responsible for the alleged chemical attack in Ghouta. We can see that preparations are being made for the military option, including the massive build-up of armaments in the region. It is difficult to understand these states’ true motives. After disastrous interventions in Iraq (without UN Security Council consent) and then in Libya (where the UN Security Council mandate was abused) where they effectively failed to facilitate stability and interreligious and interethnic peace, they now seem to be repeating the same scenario.

No reliable and persuasive evidence has been produced to confirm that chemical weapons were used, let alone who did it. Nor are there clear legal grounds for military action. So far, the alleged use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) looks more like an act of provocation – with those responsible seeking to turn it into a casus belli without presenting any proof to the public. Besides, the opposition’s version of events in Ghouta raises a lot of questions. One has to ask: cui bono? We see no rationale in government forces using chemical weapons just at the very moment when the UN fact-finding mission arrived in Syria.

At the same time, it is clear that those involved in the incident wanted to sabotage the Geneva peace talks. One cannot but recall that the government declared its readiness to negotiate some time ago, while the opposition, notably, hasn’t followed suit. Today, some external players cannot help being seen as deliberately undermining the very prospect of a peaceful political process.

We hope that common sense will prevail sooner rather than later. Russia is determined to continue efforts aimed at bringing the conflicting parties to the negotiating table.

The latest vote in the British Parliament on Syria provides convincing proof that the international community is tired of “constructive ambiguities” and ambivalence in matters of law and order in world politics. It is also too serious a matter to outsource it to groups of countries or coalitions of the willing. Acting outside international law at one’s own risk and expense is pretty costly. Moreover, instead of helping solve problems, it aggravates the situation, and turns out to be counterproductive and self-defeating. It also looms large in domestic affairs as the weapons of mass distraction topic at the time of the war in Iraq.

Like national law and order, it is something concrete, not a collection of abstract ideas or good intentions (of the kind that pave the road to Hell). It is also about due process and establishing facts first, and that means gathering evidence and reporting it to the UN Security Council for consideration and decision-making. Political expediency has no place in this process underpinning the international legitimacy of any action. Whether it sounds like too little or quite a lot – this is a minimum requirement for keeping the world an orderly place.

And this is precisely what Russia demands of her Western partners as regards the presumed use of chemical weapons in Syria. We are not asking for any more, but we’ll settle for nothing less than that. Unfortunately, some drew the wrong conclusions from the end of the Cold War, which allegedly lowered the threshold for the use of force. It is high time that those people stop deluding themselves. War is a serious business, and it has to be treated as such.

The writer is the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom.

First published by RIA Novosti.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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