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March 23, 2023

Syria crisis: Assad confirms chemical weapons handover

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has appeared on Russian TV yesterday to confirm that his country’s chemical weapons will be placed under international control, the BBC reports. Mr Assad told Rossiya 24 the move was as a result of a Russian initiative and not the threat of US military action.
The comments came as the Russian and US foreign ministers prepared for key talks in Geneva. Mr Assad told Rossiya 24, the state-run news channel: “Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision.” Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov earlier outlined three main phases of Moscow’s proposal: – Syria joins the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production and use of the weapons; – Syria reveals where its chemical weapons are stored and gives details of its programme; – Experts decide on the specific measures to be taken.
Mr Lavrov, completing a visit to Kazakhstan, said: “I am sure that there is a chance for peace in Syria. We cannot let it slip away.”
He did not mention the destruction of the weapons, which is thought to be a sticking point in Moscow’s negotiations with Damascus.
Mr Lavrov was due to discuss the plan in Geneva with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, who was first to hold talks with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Putin jabs U.S., Obama in op-ed,
says Syria strike would be ‘act of aggression’
Hours before the top diplomats from his nation and the United States begin a high-stakes meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin took to The New York Times to argue against military intervention in Syria and jab his U.S. counterpart, CNN reports.
Using an op-ed “to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders … at a time of insufficient communication between our societies,” Putin made a case much like U.S. President Barack Obama did Tuesday night – although their arguments could hardly have been more different.
Striking Syria would have many negative ramifications, Putin argued in a piece that went online Wednesday night, including the killing of innocent people, spreading violence around the Middle East, clouding diplomatic efforts to address Iran’s nuclear crisis and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “unleash(ing) a new wave of terrorism.”
Moreover, the Russian leader said such action without the U.N. Security Council’s approval “would constitute an act of aggression.”
“It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance,” Putin said.
Contrast this to Obama’s assertion that failing to act in Syria opens the door to more chemical weapons attacks in Syria and in other nations – as well as among terrorist groups – by giving the impression that the international community won’t act in the face of blatant violations on bans of their use.
And whereas the U.S. president blamed the August 21 sarin gas attack that U.S. officials estimate killed 1,400 people squarely on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Putin wrote “there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian army, but by opposition forces to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists.”
Calling Syria’s ongoing civil war an “internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition,” Putin cautioned against siding with an opposition in Syria he says includes “more than enough (al) Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes.” (He did not mention the fact Russia has long supplied arms to Syria’s government, or that U.S. officials have said they are funneling aid only to members of what they call the “moderate opposition.”)
The Russian president ended his op-ed – just after mentioning a “growing trust” between him and his U.S. counterpart – with a swipe at a remark Obama made Tuesday contending that “with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run.”

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