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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