MOSCOW — Moscow hopes the U.N. Security Council will agree a resolution this week to support a deal for Syria to abandon its chemical arms, but talks with the United States have been rocky, a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday.
Speaking before negotiations expected on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reiterated Russia's opposition to any threat of military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.
He said Moscow would not accept a resolution that would trigger punitive measures if Assad fails to comply with the U.S.-Russian deal under which he has agreed to give up his chemical arsenal.
"There can be no talk of any automatic sanctions or use of force," Ryabkov said at a meeting in parliament. He reiterated Russian concerns that Western states want to use the chemical arms agreement as a pretext for eventual military action.
Asked whether the permanent Security Council members — Russia, China, the United States, Britain, and France — could reach agreement on the resolution this week, he said: "We hope so, but there is no guarantee."
"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," Ryabkov said.
He said 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."
Russia has been the Syrian government's strongest backer during the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people since 2011, delivering arms and, with China, blocking three Western-backed resolutions intended to put pressure on Assad.
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.