Damascus Files Initial Chemical-Arms Disclosure

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 20, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

Syr­ia’s gov­ern­ment has filed its first chem­ic­al-arms dis­clos­ure as a mem­ber of an in­ter­na­tion­al re­gime seek­ing the glob­al elim­in­a­tion of tox­ic-war­fare sub­stances, a mul­ti­lat­er­al en­force­ment body said on Fri­day.

The Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons said its tech­nic­al ex­perts were re­view­ing the data provided by Dam­as­cus. “We have re­ceived part of the veri­fic­a­tion and we ex­pect more,” Re­u­ters on Fri­day quoted an OP­CW spokes­man as say­ing. An uniden­ti­fied U.N. dip­lo­mat ad­ded that the doc­u­ment­a­tion is “quite long … and be­ing trans­lated.”

The group sep­ar­ately an­nounced a delay to a planned meet­ing of the 41-na­tion OP­CW Ex­ec­ut­ive Coun­cil. The gath­er­ing — pre­vi­ously slated for Sunday — was to con­fer on a fleshed-out plan for veri­fy­ing Syr­ia’s de­clared chem­ic­al-war­fare stocks.

The White House on Thursday at­temp­ted to shore up pres­sure on the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment to turn over de­tails this week on its chem­ic­al ar­sen­al, the first in a series of re­cently ne­go­ti­ated steps to­ward des­troy­ing the arms and avert­ing U.S. mil­it­ary strikes against the re­gime. The ad­mon­ish­ment fol­lowed sig­nals from Wash­ing­ton that the cutoff date had be­come less firm.

The United States ex­pects Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment to “abide by the timeline in the frame­work” that Wash­ing­ton hammered out with Mo­scow last week, “and for Rus­sia to hold the As­sad re­gime to ac­count,” White House spokes­man Jay Car­ney told re­port­ers. “We will eval­u­ate Syr­ia’s ser­i­ous­ness about com­pli­ance based on a vari­ety of bench­marks, and the first one is this sev­en-day dead­line.”

Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin on Thursday said Dam­as­cus so far ap­pears to have “com­pletely agreed with our plan,” the Los Angeles Times re­por­ted. “But I can’t say wheth­er we will man­age to com­plete the pro­cess by 100 per­cent.”

The As­sad re­gime’s Fri­day chem­ic­al-weapons fil­ing came days after OP­CW of­fi­cials con­firmed the gov­ern­ment’s ac­ces­sion to the Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion, which is set to enter in­to force for Dam­as­cus on Oct. 14.

A Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment dip­lo­mat in an in­ter­view floated a po­ten­tial cease-fire with As­sad’s op­pon­ents, the Lon­don Guard­i­an re­por­ted on Thursday. A West­ern-backed op­pos­i­tion group, though, on Fri­day said the pro­pos­al lacked cred­ib­il­ity and had to be backed by a “com­pre­hens­ive peace plan,” CBS News re­por­ted.

Mean­while, U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry on Thursday said the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil “must be pre­pared to act next week” on a res­ol­u­tion to back the U.S.-Rus­si­an frame­work.

“We have to re­cog­nize that the world is watch­ing to see wheth­er we can avert mil­it­ary ac­tion and achieve, through peace­ful means, even more than what those mil­it­ary strikes prom­ised,” he said in a Thursday state­ment to re­port­ers.

Kerry played down ques­tions raised by Rus­sia over the cred­ib­il­ity of a re­cently re­leased U.N. in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to al­leg­a­tions of chem­ic­al strikes in the coun­try. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and a num­ber of in­de­pend­ent ana­lysts have said the find­ings strongly sug­gest As­sad’s forces had car­ried out an Aug. 21 sar­in nerve agent strike in the sub­urbs of Dam­as­cus, but Mo­scow has joined the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment in at­trib­ut­ing the in­cid­ent to op­pos­i­tion fight­ers.

“We really don’t have time today to pre­tend that any­one can have their own set of facts ap­proach­ing the is­sue of chem­ic­al weapons in Syr­ia,” Kerry said. “For many weeks, we heard from Rus­sia and from oth­ers, ‘Wait for the U.N. re­port. Those are the out­side ex­perts.’ That’s a quote.”

To have car­ried out the at­tack, rebels would have had to “secretly [gone] un­noticed in­to ter­rit­ory they don’t con­trol to fire rock­ets they don’t have con­tain­ing sar­in that they don’t pos­sess to kill their own people,” he said. “Then without even be­ing no­ticed,” the op­pos­i­tion forces would have had to dis­mantle the equip­ment and leave “the cen­ter of Dam­as­cus, con­trolled by As­sad.”

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