Syrian backing of chemical weapons plan ‘a sign of strength’

Syrian reconciliation minister says Damascus’s acceptance of proposal is not a sign of weakness

Recruits attend a class to be trained as part of a police battalion under the Free Syrian Army’s ‘Farouq Omar Brigade’ at their headquarters in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus yesterday. Photograph: Mohamed Abdullah/Reuters.

Recruits attend a class to be trained as part of a police battalion under the Free Syrian Army’s ‘Farouq Omar Brigade’ at their headquarters in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus yesterday. Photograph: Mohamed Abdullah/Reuters.

 


Syrian reconciliation minister Ali Haidar said yesterday that Damascus’s acceptance of the Russian proposal to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal and sign the convention banning such weapons is a sign of strength rather than weakness.

He said the Syrian government had removed a pretext for war but the threat remained. He rejected the imposition of measures laid down in the Russian plan, indicating that Syria would comply voluntarily. “There was no talk about moving and transferring control. There was talk about putting these weapons under international supervision.”


‘Strategic balance’
He argued that the country’s chemical weapons stockpile was “meant to achieve strategic balance with Israel” but said a new strategic balance had emerged, obviating the need for such an arsenal.

The Geneva-based UN commission investigating human rights violations in Syria warned that although the largest number of casualties are inflicted by conventional weapons, the conflict had taken a “dangerous turn” due to the alleged use of chemical weapons in rebel-held areas outside Damascus on August 21st.

The commission said, however, on the basis of evidence so far available, no finding could be reached about the chemical agents deployed, their delivery systems and perpetrators.

In its periodic report, the commission said as long as fighting continued between government and opposition forces, “civilians . . . continue to pay the price for the failure to negotiate an end to this conflict”.

The four-member panel accused the government and its opponents of conducting “widespread attacks on the civilian population, committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances”, actions constituting crimes against humanity.

The commission documented eight massacres committed by government forces and one by opposition forces comprising rebels and radical jihadis.

Another nine massacres are being investigated.

On the regional front, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei welcomed the positive US response to the Russian proposal for Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control ahead of their destruction and to sign the convention banning chemical weapons.

“I am hopeful that the United States. attitude is serious and not a game with the media”, and means an end to threats of force, he said.