Assad: Syria to offer data on chemical weapons
In this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian government solider aims his weapon during clashes with Free Syrian Army fighters, not pictured, in Maaloula village, northeast of the capital Damascus, Syria. Heavy fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels flared again on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 in the ancient, predominantly Christian village of Maaloula. Troops are trying to flush out rebel units, including two that are linked to al-Qaida, from the hilltop enclave which they broke into last week. (AP Photo/SANA)
In this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian government solider walks during clashes with Free Syrian Army fighters, not pictured, in Maaloula village, northeast of the capital Damascus, Syria. Heavy fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels flared again on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 in the ancient, predominantly Christian village of Maaloula. Troops are trying to flush out rebel units, including two that are linked to al-Qaida, from the hilltop enclave which they broke into last week. (AP Photo/SANA)
Syrian President Bashar Assad publicly agreed yesterday to a Russian plan to secure and destroy his chemical weapons, but said the proposal would work only if the United States halts threats of military action.
Assad also said his government will start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention banning such weapons.
Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told reporters yesterday that he presented Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with “the instrument of accession” to the Chemical Weapons Convention making his country a full member of the treaty banning the use of chemical weapons.
The treaty states that a nation becomes a party 30 days after such a letter is submitted.
U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said the secretary-general welcomes the development.
“Given recent events, he hopes that the current talks in Geneva will lead to speedy agreement on a way forward which will be endorsed and assisted by the international community,” Haq said.
But American officials, meeting with their Russian counterparts in Geneva, insisted on a speedier Syrian accounting of their stockpiles.
Assad’s remarks to Russia’s state Rossiya 24 news channel were his first since the Russian plan was announced Monday as a way to avert a potential U.S. military strike in response to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds near Damascus.
He said that Syria is relinquishing control over its chemical weapons because of Russia.
“We agreed to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision in response to Russia’s request and not because of American threats,” Assad said.
“In my view, the agreement will begin to take effect a month after its signing, and Syria will begin turning over to international organizations data about its chemical weapons,” Assad added. He said this is “standard procedure” and that Syria will stick to it.
“There is nothing standard about this process,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry retorted in Geneva, because Assad has used his chemical weapons. “The words of the Syrian regime, in our judgment, are simply not enough.”
Syria had long rejected joining the Chemical Weapons Convention, which requires all parties to the treaty to declare and destroy whatever chemical weapons they may possess.
Assad said the Russian deal was a two-sided process. “We are counting, first of all, on the United States to stop conducting the policy of threats regarding Syria,” he said.
Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil also suggested yesterday that the Russian proposal will succeed only if the U.S. and its allies pledge not to attack Syria in the future.
“We want a pledge that neither it (the U.S.) nor anyone else will launch an aggression against Syria,” Jamil said in Damascus.
But Kerry cautioned that a U.S. military strike could occur if Assad doesn’t agree to dismantle his chemical arsenal properly. “There ought to be consequences if it doesn’t take place,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, said the dismantling “will make unnecessary any strike against the Syrian Arab Republic.”
Syria’s top rebel commander, meanwhile, slammed the Russian proposal, calling for Assad to be put on trial for allegedly ordering the Aug. 21 attack. Many rebels had held out hopes that U.S.-led punitive strikes on Assad’s forces would help tip the scales in their favor in Syria’s civil war, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives so far.