Mixed political reaction to Syria deal

Syrian cabinet minister says chemical weapons agreement ‘a victory for Syria’

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) leans towards Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu while speaking to the media at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, Israel, yesterday. Kerry sent a strong warning to Syria, saying “the threat of force is real” if it does not carry out an internationally brokered agreement to hand over its chemical weapons. Photograph: Larry Downing/AP Photo

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) leans towards Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu while speaking to the media at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, Israel, yesterday. Kerry sent a strong warning to Syria, saying “the threat of force is real” if it does not carry out an internationally brokered agreement to hand over its chemical weapons. Photograph: Larry Downing/AP Photo

Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 01:00


Syrian reconciliation minister Ali Haidar has called the US- Russian agreement to assume control of and destroy the country’s chemical arsenal “a victory for Syria”.

“On one hand, it will help the Syrians emerge from the crisis and, on the other, it has allowed for averting war against Syria. ” Mr Haidar said yesterday the deal would prepare the way for negotiations between the government and the opposition.

It “gives the opportunity to solve . . . all the problems of Syria, not only the problem of chemical weapons”.

Mr Haidar gave credit to Moscow for proposing the deal which “is the result of Russian diplomacy and . . . leadership.” Mr Haidar is neither a member of the ruling Baath Party nor of president Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle but of the Syrian Social National Party.

Rebel Free Syria Army chief Selim Idriss flatly rejected the deal. “We cannot accept any part of this initiative . . . Russia is a partner of the regime in killing the Syrian people.”

Accountability
He called the alleged August 21st strikes on rebel-held areas of the Damascus countryside “a crime against humanity” and complained that “there is not any mention of accountability”.

Nevertheless, he said Free Army units would facilitate the mission of United Nations experts tasked with dealing with the weapons while vowing to continue fighting “until the regime falls”.


US ‘rationality’
Arab League head Nabil al- Arabi welcomed the plan, arguing that it would help reach a political solution to the conflict.

Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said the agreement was a sign of US “rationality” and of a readiness to “avoid extremist behaviour” by threatening military action against Syria in retaliation for its purported use of chemical weapons.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: “The new situation means in fact that any pretext [for the US and its allies] to engage in military action against Syria has been removed.”

China also praised the accord and a role for the UN Security Council where Beijing has a veto on any resolution mandating action against Syria under chapter VII which deals with threats to peace.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al- Zawahiri called on jihadis belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and other offshoots not to co-operate with Syrian rebel groups.

The opposition National Coalition has elected moderate fundamentalist Ahmed Tumeh as prime minister of a provisional government, after months of bickering over this post.

The coalition has also called for a ban on the use of aircraft and ballistic missiles against urban areas.

Renewed offensive
In Syria, warplanes and artillery struck rebel-controlled suburbs of Damascus, renewing the offensive suspended on August 21st by accusations that the military had used chemical weapons.

A bomb attack on a bus in the north west Idlib province killed three people, including journalist Fakreddine Hassan, who worked for the Baath Party’s youth journal.

At least 23 journalists have been killed in the Syrian conflict.

Fighting between the army and rebel-jihadi forces continued in the ancient Christian shrine town of Maaloula, 60km north of Damascus.