Syria Chemical-Equipment Destruction Proceeds Amid Peace-Talks Friction

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Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 22, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

In­ter­na­tion­al dis­arm­a­ment crews pressed ahead with ef­forts to des­troy chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als held by Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment early this week, as dip­lo­mats from nearly a dozen coun­tries met to dis­cuss po­ten­tial talks on end­ing Syr­ia’s civil war.

The Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons on Monday said it over­saw the de­struc­tion of “crit­ic­al equip­ment” at 14 fa­cil­it­ies in Syr­ia, eight more since an up­date from last Wed­nes­day. Staffers as of Monday had audited a total of 17 Syr­i­an sites, ac­cord­ing to an OP­CW state­ment.

As­sad ad­mit­ted his forces pos­sess chem­ic­al weapons and agreed to their de­struc­tion in Septem­ber, after a nerve-gas at­tack weeks earli­er raised the pos­sib­il­ity of U.S. mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in the na­tion’s civil war.

The work of the dis­arm­a­ment per­son­nel is be­ing mon­itored closely around the world. The in­ter­na­tion­al team has faced con­stant threats of vi­ol­ence, and last week can­celed a vis­it to one chem­ic­al-arms site over se­cur­ity wor­ries. In re­sponse, the United States on Monday said it sent the dis­arm­a­ment work­ers 10 ar­mored vehicles val­ued at $1.5 mil­lion for their pro­tec­tion, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. State De­part­ment state­ment.

Mean­while, Sigrid Kaag, the chem­ic­al-dis­arm­a­ment ef­fort’s new spe­cial co­ordin­at­or, traveled to Dam­as­cus on Monday, ac­cord­ing to OP­CW. Oth­er chem­ic­al-watch­dog of­fi­cials already in the Syr­i­an cap­it­al were con­sult­ing with the rul­ing re­gime as it pre­pared an “ini­tial form­al de­clar­a­tion” of its chem­ic­al-war­fare in­vent­ory. A mul­ti­lat­er­al de­cision from last month calls for As­sad’s gov­ern­ment to sub­mit the doc­u­ment by Sunday.

In Lon­don on Tues­day, U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry and of­fi­cials from 10 oth­er coun­tries met to dis­cuss pos­sible Syr­i­an peace talks. After their meet­ing at the Lan­caster House, the United King­dom’s top dip­lo­mat pressed Syr­ia’s West­ern-backed res­ist­ance to “com­mit it­self fully” to a pro­posed meet­ing aimed at end­ing the con­flict.

The peace talks — tent­at­ively slated for in Novem­ber in Geneva — are the “best hope” for Syr­ia’s people “to im­prove their lives,” Brit­ish For­eign Sec­ret­ary Wil­li­am Hag­ue told the BBC.

Ahmad Jar­ba, head of the anti-As­sad Syr­i­an Na­tion­al Co­ali­tion, ap­peared set at Tues­day’s meet­ing to rule out par­ti­cip­at­ing in any peace meet­ing that does not seek As­sad’s elim­in­a­tion from of­fice, Re­u­ters re­por­ted. A fi­nal de­cision is not ex­pec­ted un­til early next month, the BBC re­por­ted.

Speak­ing on Monday, As­sad said “the factors are not yet in place if we want [the ini­ti­at­ive called Geneva 2] to suc­ceed,” Agence France-Presse re­por­ted.

“Per­son­ally, I don’t see any reas­on why I shouldn’t run in the next elec­tion,” he ad­ded in an in­ter­view with al-Mayadeen tele­vi­sion.

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