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Syria crisis: Assad confirms chemical weapons plan

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has appeared on Russian TV to confirm that his country’s chemical weapons will be placed under international control.

Mr Assad told Rossiya 24 the move was as a result of a Russian initiative and not the threat of US military action.

The comments came as the Russian and US foreign ministers prepared for key talks in Geneva.

The US accuses the Syrian regime of killing hundreds in a poison-gas attack in the Damascus suburbs on 21 August.

The government denies the allegation, blaming rebels for the attack.

‘Chance for peace’

Mr Assad told Rossiya 24, the state-run news channel: “Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision.”

Analysis

image of Paul Adams Paul Adams BBC News, Geneva


The fact that the Russians and Americans are sending such large delegations to Geneva, including hordes of military and security officials, suggests a real desire on both sides to make use of this moment.

But the hurdles are immense. The Americans, along with the British and French, want to see some kind of enforcement mechanism to hold President Assad’s feet to the fire. The Russians say this is simply not acceptable. President Putin, in a well-timed article in the New York Times, pours scorn on American threats of force.

But even if this fundamental stumbling block can be overcome (if the US Congress passes its own resolution, with deadlines and threats, then arguably the UN doesn’t need to), there are a myriad of other problems. Who would be willing to send personnel into a war zone to carry out such hazardous work? What weapons will the Syrians be expected, or willing, to hand over? How long, realistically, will this major undertaking last?

Continue reading the main story

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov earlier outlined three main phases of Moscow’s proposal:

  • Syria joins the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production and use of the weapons
  • Syria reveals where its chemical weapons are stored and gives details of its programme
  • Experts decide on the specific measures to be taken

In his TV interview, Mr Assad confirmed Syria would send documents to the UN as part of the process of signing the chemical weapons convention.

Mr Lavrov, completing a visit to Kazakhstan, said: “I am sure that there is a chance for peace in Syria. We cannot let it slip away.”

He did not mention the destruction of the weapons, which is thought to be a sticking point in Moscow’s negotiations with Damascus.

Mr Lavrov is due to discuss the plan in Geneva with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who will first hold talks with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

US officials have described Russia’s plan as “doable but difficult”.

Officials travelling with Mr Kerry said they wanted a rapid agreement with the Russians on principles for the process, including a demand for Syria to give a quick, complete and public declaration of its stockpile.

The US postponed plans to launch military strikes on Syria after Russia proposed the disarmament earlier this week.

Source:BBC and Agencies

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