Voice of Russia — 9/4/2013
As the Syrian conflict has significantly escalated since August 21, following a chemical weapons attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian government near Damascus, Ilyas Umakhanov, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federal Council, gave his exclusive comment to the Voice of Russia on the possibility of sending a delegation of Russian MPs to the US to discuss the situation in Syria.
The most important topic right now is that the speaker of the US Congress refused to meet the Russian delegation. How can you comment on this? What is the probability that this meeting will take place?
An ordinary, usual, assiduous diplomatic work on the arrangement of a program for the visit of Russian MPs is under way. As you probably know, the delegation consists of State Duma and Federal Council members. The formation of the delegation is at its final stage. So it wouldn’t be correct to say that the speaker of the US House of Representatives turned down a proposal of the meeting with Russian MPs.
First of all, we understand that the speaker of any house in any parliament has a busy schedule. Secondly, there is a series of protocol requirements which determine modalities for meetings between heads of parliament’s houses. I don’t see any problem here. Moreover, according to information from our embassy, they contacted the Senate Major Leader, Harry Reid, who said he was willing to cooperate with Russian MPs in the organization of meetings both in the Foreign Relations Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
So, when the meeting is confirmed the Russian delegation will be ready to fly to the US.
There was information earlier today that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the use of force in Syria. How the Russian side can comment on this decision?
Unfortunately, we have to confirm with regret that such a resolution was approved. But there will be another vote on the resolution in the House of Representatives and Senate. This time, ten senators voted for the resolution, seven – against, and one senator abstained. So I want to believe that a trip of Russian MPs will not be useless as we will clarify Russia’s position, not once pronounced by the head of state, Vladimir Putin, and provide additional information we have.
Given that US MPs differ in their opinions on the situation in Syria and on possible ways of settling the conflict, can we hope for a positive outcome of your mission?
I wouldn’t get our hopes too high. We should look at the situation realistically. But when lives of people and the whole nation are at stake, when the US is speaking about a military strike which is, in fact, nothing less than aggression because the Security Council hasn’t made any decision yet, we should use any opportunity to prevent the worst-case scenario. And we’ve already witnessed such scenarios, for example, in Iraq and other countries, where intervention brought nothing but suffering to the civilian population.