Syria Peace Talks Could Hinge on Chemical Arms Removal: U.S.

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 13, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

The fate of hoped-for ne­go­ti­ations to end Syr­ia’s civil war would hinge largely on the out­come of this week’s U.S.-Rus­si­an meet­ing to se­cure and elim­in­ate chem­ic­al-war­fare stocks held by Dam­as­cus, U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry told re­port­ers on Fri­day.

Kerry is­sued the re­marks part­way through the second day of talks on flesh­ing out a Rus­si­an plan to sub­ject the Syr­i­an chem­ic­al ar­sen­al to out­side mon­it­or­ing and even­tu­al de­struc­tion. The pro­pos­al emerged pub­licly this week as Pres­id­ent Obama and his ad­min­is­tra­tion laid the rhet­or­ic­al ground­work for launch­ing mil­it­ary strikes on Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment tar­gets over an al­leged Aug. 21 nerve gas strike by forces loy­al to Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad.

Speak­ing along­side Kerry in Geneva, Switzer­land, Rus­si­an For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lav­rov as­ser­ted As­sad’s gov­ern­ment had signed onto an in­ter­na­tion­al chem­ic­al weapons ban. “We have to en­gage our pro­fes­sion­als to­geth­er with the [Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons] … [to] make sure that this is­sue is re­solved quickly, pro­fes­sion­ally, as soon as prac­tic­al,” Lav­rov said.

As­sad’s en­voy to the United Na­tions said a sub­mis­sion of doc­u­ments on Thursday had es­tab­lished Dam­as­cus as a “full mem­ber” of the Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon, though, on Thursday in­dic­ated that the treaty had still not form­ally taken ef­fect in Syr­ia.

The U.N. chief “wel­comes” a writ­ten con­firm­a­tion that As­sad had inked a “le­gis­lat­ive de­cree” on join­ing the pact, his of­fice said in a state­ment. “Syr­i­an au­thor­it­ies have ex­pressed their com­mit­ment to ob­serve the ob­lig­a­tions en­tailed by the con­ven­tion even be­fore its entry in­to force,” the re­leased re­marks state.

As­sad’s re­gime as re­cently as last week re­shuffled the place­ment of its chem­ic­al arms across dozens of fa­cil­it­ies, U.S. and Middle East­ern gov­ern­ment in­siders told the Wall Street Journ­al for a Fri­day re­port. Is­rael and the United States are now less sure than a half a year ago about where the bulk of the agents are loc­ated, ac­cord­ing to U.S. sources.

Former White House WMD czar Gary Sam­ore said “As­sad might make … a par­tial de­clar­a­tion of the chem­ic­al weapons he is will­ing to put un­der in­ter­na­tion­al con­trol and keep a sig­ni­fic­ant por­tion in his back pock­et,” the New York Times re­por­ted on Thursday.

Mean­while, a Thursday news re­port says the United States might have in­cluded deaths from con­ven­tion­al arms in its count of people killed in the Aug. 21 strikes, le­gis­lat­ive in­siders told Re­u­ters. Sev­er­al ex­perts noted that con­ven­tion­al “ther­mobar­ic weapons” can mim­ic cer­tain chem­ic­al-weapons ef­fects, For­eign Policy re­por­ted on Thursday.

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