Kerry warns Syria over non-compliance on chemical weapons

In Geneva Brahimi says talks have made modest start that can be built on

US secretary of state John Kerry has warned that Syria will face consequences if it fails to live up to a commitment to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile. Mr Kerry said in Berlin yesterday that Damascus had “a global, legal, international obligation” to meet the terms of a US-Russian timetable, agreed last September, to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal.

“We now know that the Assad regime is not moving as rapidly as it promised to move the chemical weapons out of Syria,” said Mr Kerry ahead of talks in Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I would remind Bashar al-Assad that the agreement that we reached in New York with the [UN] Security Council makes it clear that if there are issues of non-compliance, they will be referred to the security council for Chapter 7 compliance purposes.”

Mr Kerry said he remained hopeful Syria would meet its obligations and help bring about an end to the three-year civil war: “The world is witnessing human catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes every single day.”

Modest beginning
Meanwhile, eight days of peace talks between Syria's warring sides ended yesterday without progress. UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said that, in spite of a difficult start, the talks had provided a modest beginning that could be built upon when talks resume on February 10th.


“There was immense hope when this conference started. I understand that people are . . . disappointed” but the situation will not “get out of the ditch overnight”.

While reiterating that the gap between the government and the expatriate opposition National Coalition remains very large, he said they both agreed to negotiate a solution based on the June 2012 Geneva declaration which calls for an end to warfare and a transition to a democratic system.

After identifying 10 points on which the sides agree, including that war and terrorism should end, Mr Brahimi said the break would allow the sides to “prepare their detailed positions” with the aim of building more common ground during round two.

Russia and the US, together with 38 other interested powers, will attempt to bridge the gulf between the sides during the recess. Coalition president Ahmed Jarba is to meet Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow next week.

Homs cut off
Mr Brahimi expressed disappointment that humanitarian aid had not been allowed into the old city of Homs but was encouraged that UN food deliveries have continued to the Palestinian camp in the Yarmouk suburb south of Damascus.

The coalition insists that talks must focus on a transitional administration without Mr Assad while the government gives priority to ending the conflict.

Coalition spokesman Louay Safi said “all violence in Syria is state violence” but that once a transitional body was established, the rebel Free Syrian Army, loosely attached to the coalition, could join the regular army to fight al-Qaeda-linked groups.

Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem contested Mr Safi's assertion, saying the coalition delegation does not represent the Syrian opposition, and accused the coalition of serving foreign interests.

He insisted the opposition delegation should be expanded with the inclusion of domestic groups.