Russia Accuses West of Blocking Steps to Protect Syrian Chemicals From Rebels

Global Security Newswire Staff
April 9, 2014, 6:52 a.m.

Rus­sia has ac­cused West­ern powers of lim­it­ing their ef­forts to guard Syr­i­an chem­ic­al-arms ship­ments against rebel forces, IT­AR-Tass re­ports.

The Rus­si­an for­eign min­istry on Tues­day de­fen­ded a de­cision by its Dam­as­cus ally to pause chem­ic­al-weapon trans­fers to Syr­ia’s Latakia sea­port after op­pos­i­tion forces pushed in­to nearby ter­rit­ory in March. For­eign trans­port ves­sels are pick­ing up war­fare chem­ic­als from the port city for de­struc­tion abroad un­der a dis­arm­a­ment plan backed last year by Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment.

Rus­sia in­dic­ated it had tried un­suc­cess­fully to con­vince West­ern gov­ern­ments “to ex­ert in­flu­ence on the op­pos­i­tion for nor­mal­iz­ing the situ­ation” in the sur­round­ing province, where rebels had made mil­it­ary gains.

“In par­tic­u­lar, the West­ern part­ners re­jec­ted Rus­sia’s pro­pos­al for a spe­cial state­ment by the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil chair­man,” ac­cord­ing to Mo­scow.

Rus­si­an of­fi­cials ad­ded, though, that chem­ic­al-arms ship­ments in­to Latakia had re­sumed, In­ter­fax re­por­ted. Dam­as­cus placed an ad­di­tion­al 64 met­ric tons of its stocks in in­ter­na­tion­al cus­tody last week, mean­ing it has sur­rendered 59 per­cent of its stock­pile, the for­eign min­istry stated.

The of­fice said gov­ern­ments would meet an in­ter­na­tion­al goal to elim­in­ate the As­sad re­gime’s chem­ic­al stock­pile be­fore Ju­ly “if no more hos­til­it­ies are en­countered on [chem­ic­al] con­voys.”

In Wash­ing­ton, U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry on Tues­day at­temp­ted to de­flect con­gres­sion­al cri­ti­cism of the plan to elim­in­ate the Syr­i­an stocks, Time magazine re­por­ted. As­sad’s gov­ern­ment agreed to the pro­pos­al after a re­lease of sar­in nerve agent in a Dam­as­cus sub­urb last year promp­ted dis­cus­sion of po­ten­tial mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in Syr­ia’s civil war.

“Would you rather drop a few bombs, send a mes­sage, and then have him [As­sad] still with the [chem­ic­al] weapons and the ca­pa­city to de­liv­er them, or would you rather get all of them out?” Kerry asked at a Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee hear­ing.

When asked wheth­er he favored pos­sible armed ac­tion in Syr­ia, Kerry said “there is a ca­pa­city to change As­sad’s cal­cu­la­tion.” He de­clined to elab­or­ate at the hear­ing.

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