Putin Warns US Against Syria 'Aggression;' Kerry Baffled Why Russians Reject Evidence
Russian President Vladimir Putin again warned the U.S. against military strikes in Syria, arguing that without U.N. approval they would be "an aggression," while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that he could not explain why Russian officials keep rejecting evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on civilians.
"Only the U.N. Security Council could sanction the use of force against a sovereign state," Putin said in an interview with The Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television. "Any other pretext or method which might be used to justify the use of force against an independent sovereign state is inadmissible and can only be interpreted as an aggression."
Putin added, however, that Russia might be inclined to change its mind and back the U.N. Security Council authorizing the use of force on Syria, but only if evidence is presented that proves "beyond doubt" that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the chemical attack in August that killed 1,429 people, including more than 400 children.
Kerry has said that U.S. intelligence has concluded that Assad is indeed behind the attack, but when asked by a Senate Committee panel on Syria on Tuesday to explain why Russian officials keep rejecting the evidence the U.S. has presented on Assad and the use of chemical weapons, the Secretary of State said "Honestly, I don't know."
"They make an argument to some effect that we don't have evidence and that the opposition did it," Kerry added, referring to the rebels who have been locked in a civil war with the Syrian government for over two years now. He refused to speculate as to why the Russians are taking such a strong stance against U.S. evidence, but said that he hopes talks during the upcoming G20 summit in St. Petersburg later this week could lead to progress on the situation.
"President Obama will have ample opportunity to hear from President Putin and I'm confident they'll have a discussion about it," Kerry said. "Let's hope that the summit might produce some change of heart as the president makes the evidence available to President Putin."
Putin has said that it is "too early" to say what actions Russia might take if the U.S. attacks Syria without U.N. approval, BBC News reported, but confirmed that the world's largest country has suspended delivering air defense missile systems to Syria.
"If we see steps are taken that violate the existing international norms, we shall think how we should act in the future, in particular regarding supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world," Putin added.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama received the backing from the leaders of the House of Representatives in his attempts to convince Congress to vote for a military strike on Syria to take down Assad.
"The use of chemical weapons is a barbarous act. It's pretty clear to me that the United Nations is unable to take action; NATO, not likely to take action," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Tuesday, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) added that the U.S. government must respond to actions "outside the circle of civilized human behavior."