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Russian official: Syria deal positive for Lebanon

  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabko. (Reuters/ Denis Sinyakov)

BEIRUT: A Russian-U.S. deal seeking to rid Syria of its chemical arms stockpile will have a positive impact on the situation in Lebanon, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday in Beirut.

“No doubt this deal will have a positive impact on the Lebanese scene,” Ryabkov told reporters at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut before heading to Russia.

“However, if there is a war, this will have a negative impact on the situation in Lebanon, particularly between sides in the country.”

He added: “It will also have a negative impact on the economy and development in Lebanon.”

Lebanese officials Wednesday said the country would incurred $7.5 billion in losses by the end of 2014 due to the war in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis, according to a World Bank report.

Ryabkov’s comments came following a visit to Damascus where he met President Bashar Assad.

“On our way from Damascus to Beirut through the Masnaa border crossing, we [saw] the border between Lebanon and Syria was calm and the cars are flowing regularly and we did not witness the [once] large number of people fleeing Syria,” he said.

Moscow and Washington agreed earlier this month on a deal that would see Assad relinquish control of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, which would put on hold U.S. plans for a military strike against the Damascus regime over its alleged use of the banned arms.

During his visit to the Syrian capital, Ryabkov criticized the U.N. report on the use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 near Damascus, saying investigators failed to pay enough attention to evidence provided by the Assad regime.

Asked whether the Syrian government had handed Moscow evidence implicating the Syrian opposition of allegedly using Sarin gas, Ryabkov said he received three documents on the matter.

“We were handed three documents on this matter containing medical reports including blood and urine analyses to identify the chemical agent. We were also handed information from private sides.”

Asked to elaborate on the “private sides,” Ryabkov said:

“We received these documents only some time ago and they are in Arabic and require translation.”

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin said there was an international understanding to maintain stability in Lebanon.

“I am certain that there is an international umbrella for stability in Lebanon and that this is [based on a] principled and long-term stance, particularly ... [after] we were able to avoid a potential military strike on Syria,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 20, 2013, on page 3.
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