Russia’s President Putin warns US over Syria action

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the US and its allies against taking one-sided action in Syria.

US President Barack Obama has called for punitive action in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Mr Putin said Russia did not rule out supporting a UN Security Council resolution authorising force, if it was proved “beyond doubt” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.

On Tuesday evening, members of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations agreed on a draft resolution backing the use of military force.

President Vladimir Putin’s position on any military action against Syria was in the most part very robust.

He said any use of force without a United Nations Security Council resolution would be “an aggression.”

He went on to say that although Russia has suspended supplies of the sophisticated S-300 air defence missiles, he would consider supplying S-300s to other regions in the event of an American attack. That could be seen as a veiled threat to supply S-300s to Iran.

But President Putin did leave open the slight chance of a Russian change of position – something he has not done before.

He said he did not “exclude” the possibility of Russia supporting a UN Security Council resolution authorising force, if it was proved “beyond doubt” that President Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.

Of course that is a high bar, but it has given him a little wriggle room.

The measure, to be voted on next week, sets a time limit of 60 days on any operation.

According to the draft resolution, the operation would be restricted to a “limited and tailored use of the United States Armed Forces against Syria”, and prohibit the use of any ground forces.

The US has put the death toll from the alleged chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August at 1,429, though other countries and organisations have given lower figures.

Mr Putin was speaking ahead of the G20 summit in St Petersburg, which opens on Thursday and is supposed to concentrate on the global economy, but now looks likely to be dominated by the crisis in Syria.

Mr Putin said it was “ludicrous’’ that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia, would use chemical weapons at a time when it was gaining ground against the rebels.

“If there is evidence that chemical weapons were used, and by the regular army… then this evidence must be presented to the UN Security Council. And it must be convincing,” Mr Putin said.

But he added that Russia would “be ready to act in the most decisive and serious way” if there was clear proof of what weapons were used and who used them.

Mr Putin said it was “too early” to talk about what Russia would do if America took action without a UN resolution.

– BBC News

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