Syria accepts Russian plan on chemical weapons, says minister
“We accept the Russian plan to get rid of our chemical weapons,” says Omran al-Zoubi
A Free Syrian Army fighter walks past a torn poster amid the rubble in the old city of Aleppo. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman/Files
Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi has said his country would comply with a UN Security Council resolution on chemical weapons.
“We accept the Russian plan to get rid of our chemical weapons. In fact, we’ve started preparing our list” , adding that Damascus would “absolutely” grant access to weapons inspectors. “We take this agreement very seriously.”
His announcement coincided with the shooting down of a Syrian army helicopter by Turkey near the border after it violated Turkish airspace.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, the most effective of the jihadi groups, has said it killed at least 30 heterodox Shia Alawites – members of President Bashar al-Assad’s community – in attacks on three villages in Homs province. The British-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed the deaths of 22 villagers from one of the villages, Maksar al-Hasan. Sectarian killings, kidnappings and ethnic cleansing have been a feature of the Syrian conflict for more than two years.
Spiral of violence
United Nations Commission of Inquiry chief Paulo Pinheiero said that across northern Syria there has been an upsurge in crimes and abuses committed by extremist anti-government armed groups along with an influx of . . . foreign fighters while Syrian government forces have continued a “relentless campaign of air bombardment and artillery shelling across the country”.
He said the government has been responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity while armed opponents have perpetrated war crimes but not crimes against humanity because they do not operate under “a clear chain of command”.
The commission is investigating 14 suspected chemical attacks in Syria. While chemical experts may confirm the use of agents in specific incidents, the commission is tasked with discovering who is responsible and making recommendations to the UN Council on Human Rights which can ask the security council to refer perpetrators to the International Criminal Court.
The head of Syria’s proposed provisional government, Ahmed Taomeh, has pledged to curb the influence of al-Qaeda-linked militants: “On top of the destruction and killing and displacement the regime has brought, people are suffering from militants’ behaviour.”
A group of 55 doctors and medical professionals has warned that Syria’s healthcare system is “at breaking point” because of attacks on hospitals and staff, flight and imprisonment of doctors and prevention of humanitarian access to wounded and ailing patients.