Despite Syria's initial cooperation, negotiations between Russia and the U.S. to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria aren't going very well. "Unfortunately, it's necessary to note that in contacts with the Americans, things are not going so smoothly ... they are not quite going in the direction they should," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a Russian parliamentary meeting Monday ahead of this week's U.N. General Assembly. U.S. officials "always mention that plans to punish Damascus remain in force. We draw certain conclusions from that and assume that the threat of aggression in violation of international law is so far only delayed, not dismissed fully," he added, proving the war of the op-eds did nothing to cool U.S-Russian relations.
Some hope the U.N. Security Council will finally reach a resolution to outline the process Syria will follow to hand over its chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons during the G.A. meetings this week. The U.S. is advocating punishments be put in place in the form of immediate sanctions or, more dramatically, the threat of immediate military force, should Syria not follow instructions as part of the deal. To be fair, Syria met its first deadline on Friday in the six-point plan hammered out by Russia and the U.S. for the country to turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons. The next step for Syria is to relinquish its chemical weapon to the OPCW by November.
That things aren't going smoothly between the two countries should not be surprising. After the duelling op-eds from Russian president Vladimir Putin and Senator John McCain, Russia's top diplomat accused the U.S. of blackmail over the weekend. "The U.S. partners are blackmailing us," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a Russian television station on Sunday. "They say they will quit the work at the OPCW in The Hague if Russia does not back the resolution based on Chapter VII at the U.N. Security Council." Chapter VII of the U.N. charter would authorize military action as potential consequence if Syria doesn't meet its deadlines.
Echoing his senior, Ryabkov still questioned the possibility that any consequences be placed on Syria. "There can be no talk of any automatic sanctions or use of force," Ryabkov said. "We hope" the security council can reach a deal this week, he said, "but there is no guarantee."