Beltway Confidential

Putin's foreign minister claims Russia can veto future U.S. strike in Syria

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Russia,Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that -- under the agreement negotiated with Secretary of State John Kerry -- Russia would have veto power over the use of military force to punish Syrian dictator Bashar Assad if he uses or retains some of his chemical weapons stockpiles.

"And of course, in these approaches agreed on, there is nothing said about the use of force, not about any automatic sanctions we – as I said, all violations should be approved in the Security Council convincingly," Lavrov said in his opening statement during a press conference Saturday with Kerry.

"Of course, it does not mean that every violation that will be reported to the Security Council will be taken by word," Lavrov said when a reporter asked for clarification on the threat of force.

"Of course, we will investigate every case, because there are a lot of false information, pieces of information in the world, and we should be very cautious about every fact. And when we are sure, 100 percent, then we in the Russian Federation will be ready to adopt new resolution of the Security Council to embed the measures to punish the perpetrators of this violation, and it’s nonsense to continue the speculations on the matter today."

If Lavrov's comments during the briefing are any indication, the Russians will be skeptical of any evidence presented by foreign leaders.

"I told you very sincerely that we are very worried with the attempts to frustrate any efforts aimed at calming down the situation at – avoiding certain and removing certain aspects of the Syrian conflict, including the efforts that were taken together with John today," Lavrov said, before accusing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of offering false evidence.

"And then it occurred that there was some film production and there was false information and they were not related together, all this information," he said. "And if it’s – it was not just a full mistake, because the meeting was closed, and if it’s not – if it was not just a joke, but it was just an attempt to frustrate our meeting here in Geneva together with John Kerry, and they did not manage, thank God."

Kerry downplayed the significance of the arrangement. "[T]here is an agreement between Russia and the United States that noncompliance is going to be held accountable within the Security Council under Chapter 7," he acknowledged.

"What remedy is chosen is subject to the debate within the council, which is always true, but there’s a commitment to impose measures," Kerry continued. "And as Sergey knows, under any circumstances, there would be a debate in the Security Council, even now. So there’s no diminishment, there’s no diminution of option.

"And it’s impossible, obviously, under these circumstances, to have a pre-agreement as to what that specific sanction might or might not be for circumstances that we don’t even know yet. Our hope is that we have a tight enough regimen that is agreed upon, as we have said, in the extraordinary measures that we have laid out."

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