Facing resistance from U.S. lawmakers, Russia has canceled plans to send a parliamentary delegation to Washington to discuss the situation in Syria.
Sergey Naryshkin, speaker of the Russian State Duma, announced the decision to cancel the delegation on Friday, calling the U.S. refusal to meet "regrettable."
"The unwillingness to listen to arguments on inter-parliamentary level testifies to the fact that our American partners themselves understand the weakness of their positions," Naryshkin said, according to Russian news agency RT.
The decision to cancel the delegation comes after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., both refused to meet with their Russian counterparts.
Naryshkin argued that that the U.S. often considers the important issues of other nations to be their internal affairs despite the current system of international law and the U.N.'s global security architecture.
The Russian delegation had been hoping to meet with U.S. lawmakers to discuss the proposed military strikes against Syria in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Both Boehner and Reid have expressed support for President Barack Obama's call for military action against Syria.
Russia has been a staunch ally of Assad, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned against launching an attack against Syria.
Obama and Putin met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg on Friday, but the two leaders remain far apart on the issue of military action.
"We understood each other, we listened to each other," Putin said at a press conference following the meeting. "We didn't agree with each other's arguments, but we could hear them. We tried to find an agreement towards a peaceful settlement of this crisis."
According to reports, Putin also indicated that Russia would "assist" Syria in the event of a U.S. attack, although the type of assistance that would be provided was not immediately clear. Russia already provides Syria with military equipment.
Russia, which has used its veto power to block U.N. Security Council action against Assad, has warned against military action in Syria, arguing that U.N. investigators should be allowed to complete their inquiry regarding the alleged chemical weapons attacks.
On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that attacking Syrian chemical weapons storage sites could cause an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.
"We warn the U.S. authorities and its allies against launching any strikes on the chemical sites and surrounding areas," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Such actions would lead to a new dangerous development in the tragic Syrian crisis."
Besides potentially impacting the civilian population and the environment, strikes targeting Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles could make it easier for warring factions to gain access to them, the statement said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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