Syria Chemical Mission May Suffer Fallout From Ukraine Crisis

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Global Security Newswire Staff
March 14, 2014, 8:40 a.m.

Wash­ing­ton’s top dip­lo­mat said it is un­clear how ten­sions over Ukraine could af­fect the re­mov­al of chem­ic­al arms from Syr­ia, Agence France-Presse re­ports.

Rus­sia played a cru­cial role in per­suad­ing Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment to cut 38 days from a re­vised timeline for re­lin­quish­ing its re­main­ing chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als, Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said on Thursday.

“We be­lieve that could now be re­duced by an­oth­er 20 to 25 days, and we’d like to see that done,” he told law­makers at a Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee hear­ing.

However, “wheth­er or not we can suc­ceed in get­ting that done will de­pend to some de­gree on the out­come of events … with re­spect to Ukraine,” Kerry said. “My hope is … that events in Ukraine will not in­ter­fere.”

Ten­sions have soared between Mo­scow and West­ern cap­it­als fol­low­ing the Rus­si­an mil­it­ary oc­cu­pa­tion of Ukraine’s Crimean Pen­in­sula at the start of this month. The sides have ex­changed threats of polit­ic­al and eco­nom­ic re­pris­als as Crimean res­id­ents pre­pared for a Sunday vote on wheth­er to pull away from Ukraine’s new, pro-West­ern in­ter­im gov­ern­ment.

On Fri­day, though, a Rus­si­an For­eign Min­istry in­sider sug­ges­ted the Syr­i­an dis­arm­a­ment op­er­a­tion would move for­ward as planned, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

“If there are no dif­fi­culties then in a month, on April 13, the re­mov­al will be prac­tic­ally fin­ished,” Mikhail Uly­an­ov, head of the se­cur­ity and dis­arm­a­ment de­part­ment, said in a re­port by the state-run RIA Nov­osti news agency.

Kerry sug­ges­ted that “Rus­sia main­tains a sig­ni­fic­ant in­terest in not hav­ing [Syr­ia’s] chem­ic­al weapons loose, not hav­ing them fall in­to the hands of ter­ror­ists.”

As­sad’s gov­ern­ment — a close part­ner of Mo­scow — agreed to give up the chem­ic­als after an Au­gust sar­in-gas at­tack on an op­pos­i­tion-held area promp­ted in­ter­na­tion­al mil­it­ary threats. Ob­serv­ers have ques­tioned the Syr­i­an re­gime’s abil­ity to fully pro­tect the ma­ter­i­als from seizure by oth­er groups fight­ing in Syr­ia’s civil war, which is now en­ter­ing its fourth year.

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