But, he says, the US must first make a firm decision to exclude the jihadists as the common enemy of all, and work for a settlement between regime and moderate rebels. That’s a big leap for Washington, which still sees Assad as the main enemy and believes that the jihadist problem can be dealt with after the regime’s overthrow, Mr. Markov says. “The US and others are still backing militant Syrian oppositionists with arms and diplomatic support, even though Western public opinion more and more recognizes that these rebels are not democrats, but violent radicals aligned with Al Qaeda,” he says. “Because of this the preparations for a Geneva-2 peace conference are still not going well.” One continuing bone of contention, which drives the fundamentally opposing views of Russia and the West about the Syrian war, is the dispute over who used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians in a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21, and on at least three earlier occasions. The West appears certain the Assad regime is to blame, while Russia argues that the rebels seeking to trigger US intervention on their side may be responsible . Russia claims it has filed a 100-page report with the UN detailing the use of deadly sarin gas by rebel forces in Aleppo last March, but the US has been blocking investigation into the case. “We have information that the tragic incident on Aug. 21, where chemical weapons were used according to confirmed reports, involved sarin of the same origin as the chemical toxin fired on March 19 [in Aleppo], although it was far stronger. We have submitted these findings to our US partners and to the UN Secretariat,” Lavrov told Russian news agencies last week. Speaking to Kommersant, Lavrov said Russia will continue to investigate the matter on its own and submit its findings to the UN, because it fears that such “rebel provocations” aimed at derailing the peace process are likely to continue.
Russia reportedly charges 5 Greenpeace activists with piracy
30, 2013. (AP Photo) Greenpeace said Wednesday that five of its activists who were detained after protesting at a Russian oil platform have been charged with piracy and could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. The environmental group said in a statement that activists from Brazil, Britain, Finland and Sweden as well as a British videographer have been formally charged with piracy. The Russian Coast Guard seized a Greenpeace ship and all 30 people from 18 countries on board following the Sept. 18 protest at an offshore platform in the Arctic owned by Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom. Greenpeace said in a statement that more activists are expected to be formally charged on Thursday. The investigators said the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, had violated the 500-yard security zone around the platform and that it was carrying equipment whose purpose was still unclear. Greenpeace has said its ship stayed out of this zone but its inflatable boats used by activists to reach the platform and then scale it posed no danger. The activists have been in custody in the northern city of Murmansk since last week.