Syria applies to join chemical weapons convention
Country seeks to sign up to global ban as US and Russia conclude first meeting in Geneva
In this image from video footage by Russian state television RU24, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview in Damascus yesterday.
Syria yesterday applied to sign up to the global ban on chemical weapons, with the UN confirming it had received its application to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. Earlier President Bashar al-Assad promised to deliver the application within days.
The move came as US secretary of state John Kerry set an early test for Dr Assad by insisting on quick disclosure of data on Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons.
Mr Kerry yesterday began talks in Geneva with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, on a plan to secure and dispose of Syria’s poison gas.
Dr Assad said Damascus was prepared to place its chemical weapons under international control, insisting “the US threats did not influence our decision”.
“When we see the United States really wants stability in our region and stops threatening [attacks] and . . . ceases arms deliveries to terrorists, we believe the necessary processes [for handing over and destroying chemical weaponry] can be finalised,” said Dr Assad.
The four-point Russian plan to put Syria’s chemical weapons out of reach and destroy them was handed to the US on Tuesday. According to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, the plan should be an alternative to the use of force.
Under the plan, Damascus would join the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, reveal sites where its weapons are stored and manufactured, allow inspectors from the organisation to examine them, and work out with the inspectors how to destroy the weapons.
Inspectors who examined evidence of the alleged August chemical attack are due to report on Monday. They may not allocate blame but their findings could indicate the culprit.
Chief of staff of the rebel Free Syrian Army Selim Idriss announced his “definitive rejection of the Russian initiative . . . We ask that the international community not be content with withdrawing chemical weapons . . . but to hold the perpetrator accountable [for using such weapons] and prosecute him at the International Criminal Court.”
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a key supporter of the opposition and the rebels, accused the Syrian government of failing to live up “to any of its pledges” and said the Russian proposal has given it time to commit “new massacres”.
The CIA has been delivering lethal aid to selected Syrian rebel groups. The shipments include light weapons and ammunition which, it is said, can be traced to intended recipients, as well as non-lethal aid such as vehicles.
However, some groups are fundamentalist and co-operate closely with al-Qaeda- linked groups, which generally have better and more abundant weaponry than those not affiliated with al-Qaeda.
The Obama administration’s decision to deliver weaponry marks a deepening of its involvement in the conflict.
On the ground in Syria, fighting in the northeast between Kurdish fighters and al-Qaeda linked factions, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq, has killed 50, opposition activists said.
Syrian war planes reportedly bombed a key hospital in rebel-held al-Bab, a town 30km north of Aleppo city.
The state news agency Sana reported that troops killed 14 “terrorists”, armed opponents, north of al-Bab.
Syrian minister in charge of administering aid, Omar Ghalwanji said families displaced by the conflict need more than €1 billion in aid but “there is a deficit of 57 per cent”.
The Red Cross urged the US and Russia to press the Syrian government and its opponents to aid the transfer of medical assistance to conflicted areas.