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Syria will sign chemical arms treaty, says President Bashar Assad

4:23 PM, Sep 12, 2013   |    comments
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Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech in Damascus, Syria, on June 3. (Photo: AP)

 


 


Syrian President Bashar Assad said Thursday that Syria will submit data on its chemical weapons stockpile one month after signing a 20-year-old international agreement banning chemical weapons.

In an interview Thursday with Rossiya-24 TV, the Syrian leader confirmed its intention to place its weapons under international control, but said it made the decision in response to a Russian proposal and not the threat of a U.S. military strike.

He did not say when Syria plans to actually sign the Chemical Weapons Convention. The arms control agreement, which has been signed by all countries except Syria, North Korea, South Sudan, Egypt and Angola, was finalized in 1993. Israel and Burma, also known as Myanmar, have signed the agreement but not ratified it.

The convention outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and its precursors.

Assad, making his first public comments since Russia proposed this week that Syria turn over its chemical arms to international control.

He told the Russian TV channel that submitting details on Syria's chemical stockpile is the "standard process" and that his country will follow it.

The first report of the interview was carried by RT.com, which said the full interview will be broadcast later on Thursday.

Assad also said that the process is "two-sided" and suggested it will only work if the U.S. halts its threats of military action against Syria. He suggested that signing any deal would be tied to U.S. refraining from backing Syrian rebels.

"When we see the United States really wants stability in our region and stops threatening, striving to attack, and also ceases arms deliveries to terrorists, then we will believe that the necessary processes can be finalized," he was quoted as saying.

He said, however, that American threats of military action did not prompt his moves.

"Syria is handing over its chemical weapons under international supervision because of Russia," Assad said in the interview. "The US threats did not influence the decision," he added. Syria will now give the United Nations the documents required for the procedure, Assad added.

The remarks came as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva where he will hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over the Moscow-sponsored proposal that would potentially ward off military strikes.

Kerry and a team of U.S. experts will have at least two days of meetings with their Russian counterparts.

They hope to emerge with an outline of how some 1,000 tons of Syria's chemical weapons stocks and precursor materials as well as potential delivery systems can be safely inventoried and isolated under international control in an active war zone and then destroyed.

Lavrov described the focus as largely on "technical issues," The Washington Postreports.

"Undoubtedly, it's necessary to make sure that Syria joins the convention on prohibition of chemical weapons, which would envisage Syria declaring the locations of its chemical weapons depots, its chemical weapons program," he said at a briefing in Astana, Kazakhstan before heading to Geneva. "On that basis, the experts will determine what specific measures need to be taken to safeguard those depots and arsenals."

The meetings come as Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote a New York Times opinion piece urging President Obama's administration to exercise caution over the situation in Syria.

"The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders," Putin wrote.

Putin said "there is every reason to believe'' that it was Syrian rebels rather than the regime of President Bashar Assad that is responsible for the chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug, 21., a suggestion strongly disputed by Washington, France and a number of other nations.

PUTIN: Gas may have been used by rebels, not Syrian Army

Elsewhere, in what the Foreign Policy publication is calling an exclusive report, United Nations inspectors have reportedly gathered a large amount of "evidence on the use of nerve agents that points to Syrian President Bashar Assad using chemical weapons against his own people."

Foreign Policy based its report on an unnamed senior Western official.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius indicated Thursday that the U.N.'s report on the incident may be published as soon as Monday, according to a Reuters report.


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