Syria agrees to put chemical weapons under international control
Syria has welcomed Russia’s initiative to put its chemical weapons stockpile under international control in a bid to avert US military intervention.
The offer was made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday during talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in Moscow.
Muallem said he welcomed the proposal, which calls on Syria to hand over control of its chemical weapons to the international community and then have them destroyed.
“I state that the Syrian Arab Republic welcomes the Russian initiative, motivated by the Syrian leadership’s concern for the lives of our citizens and the security of our country, and also motivated by our confidence in the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is attempting to prevent American aggression against our people,” Muallem said through an interpreter.
The Russian initiative came shortly after US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in London that the only way for Syria to avoid military action is to hand over its entire stockpile of chemical weapons within the next week.
But, US officials later said that Kerry was making a “rhetorical argument” rather than a serious offer.
Washington is struggling to secure support for military action against Syria over the accusation that the Syrian government was involved in a deadly chemical attack near Damascus on August 21.
The White House, however, has admitted it has no “irrefutable” evidence of Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, but said a “strong common-sense test irrespective of the intelligence” suggested the Syrian army was responsible for the August poison gas attack.
The US Senate will vote on authorizing military intervention in Syria later this week.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned of massive retaliation if the United States launches a military strike against his country.
Assad told CBS Television on Monday that Washington should “expect everything” if US forces attack his country.
Lavrov, Al-Moallem Urge Political Solution for Syria Crisis: US Strike to Outburst Terrorism in ME
Al Ahed news
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed Monday that “more states share Russia’s belief that military action in Syria will only enable terrorism.”
Speaking at a press conference along with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem, Lavrov highlighted that Moscow fully supports calls by the UN Security Council to bring chemical experts back to Syria to complete their mission.
“UN inspectors should return to Syria to investigate the alleged use of chemical arms,” he said, and pointed out that his country is keen on adhering to international agreements.
He further called for an investigation to be carried out over the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria in a professional and objective manner. “The findings of the investigation should then be referred to the UN Security Council.”
In parallel, Lavrov warned that “strikes on Syria would cause the outburst of terrorism in the region.”
“We are very concerned with the future of the Middle East,” the head of Moscow’s diplomacy mentioned , and emphasized that Damascus has reacted positively to Moscow’s urging for the opposition and the government to unite their efforts in expelling terrorists from Syria.
Moreover, the Russian FM added: “Both countries are certain that a political settlement is still possible, although the situation is very serious.”
Lavrov also stressed that “there is more than enough evidence to support the claim that the rebels are behind the chemical attack.”
“We plan to ask the Syrian opposition to agree clearly on “Geneva 2″ conference without preconditions,” he declared, as he urged the US to concentrate on the political solutions to Syria crisis instead of setting war scenarios
For his part, the Syrian FM questioned the real intentions behind the US strike on Syria: “We ask about the motivation of US to launch a strike against us.”
Meanwhile, he suspected that the US strike aims at attacking the Syrian army in favor of al-Qaeda and its extremists, particularly al-Nusra Front.
“There is testimony of a Mother Agnes – a mother Superior at a monastery in Syria, suggesting that the whole affair with the chemical weapons was a staged frame-up operation,” al-Moallem clarified.
However, he emphasized that “diplomatic efforts have not been exhausted.”
Al-Moallem expressed his admiration with a large portion of the American public for voicing their outright disagreement with the proposed strike.
“A president who seeks peace is more powerful than one who seeks war,” he said, wondering: “How will Obama justify empowering al-Qaeda, especially we are close to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks?”
On the Russian position, al-Moallem praised the Russian administration for doing everything in its power to “prevent an act of aggression.”
He added that the Syrian side “holds in high regard the unflinching position of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.”
He also stated that the impending foreign intervention will first and foremost affect the peaceful Syrian population. “As history shows, the first victims in any military conflict are women and children”, the FM said.
Kerry: End to Syria War Must Be Political Not Military, Handover of Chemical arms to Prevent Attack
Al Ahed news
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the solution to the Syrian conflict must be political not military.
However, he claimed that air strikes were essential to stop “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime from killing its own people with chemical weapons.”
“Let me be clear, the United States, President Obama, myself, others are in full agreement that the end of the conflict in Syria requires a political solution. There is no military solution, we have no illusions about that,” he said after talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
In parallel, he stated: “A resolution to this has to come about because the parties are prepared to come and negotiate that political solution.”
“A resolution will not be found on the battlefield, but at that negotiating table. But we have to get to that table,” Kerry said from London.
He further claimed that al-Assad could avoid a military strike by turning over all his chemical weapons within a week but immediately made clear he was sure that would never happen.
When asked by a reporter whether there was anything al-Assad’s government could do or offer to stop any attack, Kerry said:
“Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week – turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting (of it) but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done.”
“If you want to send Iran and Hizbullah and al-Assad a congratulatory message: ‘You guys can do what you want,’ you’d say: ‘Don’t do anything.’
“We believe that is dangerous and we will face this down the road in some more significant way if we’re not prepared to take … a stand now,” Kerry said.
He also stressed the relationship between Britain and the United States was as strong as ever despite the British parliament having decided not to join military action against Syria.
“The relationship between the United States and the UK has often been described as special, essential and it has been described thus because it is,” Kerry said. “The bond .. is bigger than one vote.”
Kerry said while in London he had held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas which were “productive and information” but did not give any further details.
For his part, Hague said that Washington had the “full diplomatic support of the United Kingdom” even though it will not take part in military action.
“They have the full diplomatic support of the United Kingdom,” said Hague, and pointed out that “the United Kingdom will continue to play an active role in addressing the Syria crisis and working with our closest ally in the coming weeks and months.”
Assad: US Will ’Pay the Price’ If It Attacks Syria
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned Washington on AssadMonday to brace for retaliation if US forces attacked his country, as he categorically rejected accusing the army of using chemical weapons in Damascus.
“You’re going to pay the price if you’re not wise. There are going to be repercussions,” President Assad told CBS television.
“It’s an area where everything is on the brink of explosion. You have to expect everything.”
Assad also warned of the risks of possible chemical attacks by rebels or “terrorists” if there was outside intervention in Syria.
“You should expect everything. The government’s not the only player in this region. You have different parties, different factions, different ideologies. You have everything in this decision now,” President Assad said.
Assad denied the army carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on August 21 on the outskirts of Damascus, as alleged by the United States and some of its allies.
“How can you talk about what happened if you don’t have evidence?” he asked in the interview, in which he spoke English.
“We’re not like the American administration, we’re not like the social media administration or government. We’re the government that deals with evidence.”
Assad noted that the Syrian army had themselves in fact been attacked by rebels using chemical arms.
“But in the area where they say the government used chemical weapons, we only have video and we only have pictures and allegations. We’re not there. Our forces, our police, our institutions don’t think this,” Assad said.
Asked whether the repercussions President Assad predicted could include the use of more chemical weapons, Assad replied: “That depends. If the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it, it could happen. I don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller to tell you what’s going to happen.”