'Prove it,' US tells Assad on chemical arms vow

President Bashar al-Assad confirmed for the first time that Syria plans to give up its chemical weapons as the United States urged him and his Russian allies to quickly make good on his promise.

But the long-time Syrian leader cast fresh doubt Thursday on how committed he is to a hastily-hatched plan to secure Syria's poison gas stocks by demanding that Washington first drop its threat of military action against his regime.

"When we see that the United States truly desires stability in our region and stops threatening and seeking to invade, as well as stops arms supplies to terrorists, then we can believe that we can follow through with the necessary processes," Assad told Russian television.

"Syria is handing over chemical weapons under international control because of Russia," he said. "US threats have not affected the decision."

Top US and Russian diplomats and weapons experts launched high-stakes talks late Thursday to pore over the details of the Russian plan, and were to huddle again in their Geneva hotel early Friday.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Assad that "the words of the Syrian regime in our judgement are simply not enough".

Any deal to bring Syria's chemical weapons stockpile under international control "has to be credible. It has to be timely and implemented in a timely fashion," he said.

In a concrete move towards disarmament, Syria on Thursday filed documents at the United Nations seeking to join the international convention banning chemical weapons.

Damascus said it now considers itself a full member of the convention. While UN leader Ban Ki-moon welcomed the application, the United Nations would not immediately confirm it had been accepted.

Diplomats said it was possible there were missing elements and the application could be sent back to Assad.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he believed the "solution" to the issue of Syria's chemical weapons "makes unnecessary any strikes on Syria".

Pending the talks, US President Barack Obama has put on hold plans for limited military strikes against the Syrian regime to disable its chemical weapons capability, but US officials have repeatedly stressed that the option still remains on the table.

Lavrov, speaking through a translator, told Kerry that "I hope we will achieve all the successes".

But the top US diplomat quipped: "You want me to take your word for it? It's a little early for that".

The two men and their delegations met for about an hour before Lavrov and Kerry held a smaller dinner together. US officials described the talks as "comprehensive" and the atmosphere as "constructive."

Washington alleges that some 1,400 people died in a chemical attack on August 21 and was rallying support for a military response when the Russian proposal emerged.

UN inspectors will point the finger of blame at the Assad regime for the chemical weapons strike, the London Times reported Friday.

The inspectors' report, due to be published on Monday, will include a wealth of evidence that a chemical nerve agent was used in the attack, according to the paper's sources.

The United States and France, Washington's main backer of military strikes on Syria, have warned they will not allow the chemical weapons plan to become a delaying tactic in Syria's brutal war.

"All of this should, if everyone is aware of their responsibilities, allow for the end of chemical weapons in Syria and for us to find a political solution, but France is keeping up pressure," President Francois Hollande told reporters.

Revealing details of the Russian proposal, the daily Kommersant said Moscow had given Washington a four-step plan for the weapons handover.

Quoting a Russian diplomatic source, Kommersant said the plan would see Damascus join the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), declare the locations of its chemical arms, allow OPCW inspectors access and finally arrange for destruction of the arsenal.

Syria's opposition has denounced the plan, warning it will only lead to more deaths in a conflict that has already claimed more than 110,000 lives since March 2011.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, made an unusual personal appeal to the American people to reject military action.

"A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism," Putin wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times. "It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance."

He warned any strikes without the approval of the United Nations Security Council, where Moscow wields a veto, would destroy the credibility of the world body.

Russia is a traditional ally of Assad, and Moscow, backed by China, has blocked any attempt to sanction his regime through the United Nations.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will visit China on Sunday to discuss the Syria plan, before travelling on to meet with Lavrov.

On Friday, Hollande will meet the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, his office said.

Kerry also met Thursday with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to discuss UN-backed efforts to bring the Assad regime to the negotiating table with the rebels.

"We hope that once they have done what they have to do with the Russians on this chemical issue we will start talking again" about a Geneva peace conference, Brahimi said afterwards.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ‘Taklub’ wins jury prize in Cannes
    ‘Taklub’ wins jury prize in Cannes

    The Yolanda-inspired film “Taklub” has won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The advocacy film, which had a successful premiere last Tuesday under the festival’s Un Certain Regard section, is directed by 2009 Cannes best director Brillante Mendoza and top-billed by Nora Aunor. The award cited the film’s sensitive portrayal of individuals and communities in the Philippines fighting to continue living despite natural disasters exposing them to suffering and death. …

  • Orphan tops chemical engineering board exam
    Orphan tops chemical engineering board exam

    A 21-year-old orphan from Capiz topped the chemical engineering board examinations held this month. Remington Salaya, a cum laude graduate of the Central Philippine University in Iloilo, ranked first in the board examinations with a score of 83.30 percent. Out of 405 chemical engineering graduates who took the exam in mid-May, 239 passed. …

  • A sunset party for APEC delegates
    A sunset party for APEC delegates

    Greeted by the beat of Ati-atihan drummers, delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade ministers meeting enjoyed a welcome dinner and cultural presentation at sunset yesterday. Dubbed FuntaSea, Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa’s Banyugan Beach was transformed into a fantasy island, complete with mermaids, fire dancers, and choreographed paraws (sailboat) representing the best of Boracay. With APEC meetings being held all over the Philippines, each presentation is conceptualized …

  • UN chief urges peaceful solution of sea dispute
    UN chief urges peaceful solution of sea dispute

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for a peaceful solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China’s increased assertiveness has alarmed its smaller neighbors. In Manila, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. appealed to China to respect various international agreements on freedom of navigation and aviation. Coloma’s call came in the wake of an incident Wednesday where Chinese naval forces warned a US …

  • Phl seeks transparency, inclusivity in Asean-China Center
    Phl seeks transparency, inclusivity in Asean-China Center

    Philippine Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Elizabeth Buensuceso has called on participants of the ASEAN-China Center (ACC) brainstorming session to vigorously work on promoting ASEAN-China relations under the principles of inclusivity, transparency and centrality. The brainstorming session, attended by the ACC’s joint council and joint executive board members, also involved a midterm review of ACC’s work since its establishment in 2011. The ACC aims to promote …

  • Lebanon tightens rules on HSW repatriation
    Lebanon tightens rules on HSW repatriation

    Distressed Filipino domestic helpers in Lebanon may find it more difficult to return home. The government of Lebanon has tightened the rules on repatriation of distressed household service workers (HSWs), Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz reported yesterday. Citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Baldoz said the Lebanese government opted to re-impose a previous policy requiring investigation into every case of HSWs who ran away from their employers and sought …

  • Army execs face attrition over promotion quota
    Army execs face attrition over promotion quota

    Dozens of Philippine Army officials may be removed from the service due to a promotion quota system in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang. In a letter to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, he requested that the 30 percent promotion quota – which means that only 30 percent of those eligible for promotion in a given year will actually be promoted – in the Army be raised to 50 percent. Under the military’s attrition law, middle-grade officers …

  • Philippines backs support for small enterprises at APEC meet

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top trade official on Saturday called for support for the integration of micro, small and medium enterprises in global trade, which he said would help reduce poverty and inequality in the Asia-Pacific region. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options