Assad: Syria ceding chem arms due to Russia plan, not US threats
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Syria's decision to place its chemical weapons arsenal under international control was the result of Russia’s proposal rather than the threat of a US military strike, President Bashar Assad has told a Russian TV channel.
“Syria is handing over its chemical weapons under international supervision because of Russia,” Assad said in an interview with state-run news channel Rossiya-24. “The US threats did not influence the decision,”he added.
Damascus will also submit to the United Nations all documents required for joining the chemical weapons ban treaty, Assad said.
The interview was recorded on Thursday and will be aired later.
On Monday, as the White House was pushing for congressional approval of the military strike against the Syrian regime, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged Damascus to put its stockpile of chemical weapons under international control.
Moscow also called on the Syrian government to join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Syria accepted the proposal and agreed to sign the sign the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Moscow’s initiative was also welcomed in Washington. President Barack Obama urged the US Congress to postpone a vote to authorize military action, and said he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, accompanied by groups of experts, were scheduled to meet in Geneva late Thursday to discuss in detail Moscow's plan to dispose of Syrian chemical weapons.
Ahead of the meeting, Lavrov said that not just Moscow and Washington would supervise the placing of Syrian chemical weapons under international control, but that specialists from other countries would also be involved in the process.
“We are not going to usurp these arrangements in the Russian-US format,” he told a media conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Thursday, Interfax reported. “International specialists, experts of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, must take part in this work. We and our American colleagues are already holding a substantive dialogue with them.”
Lavrov also said he hoped Russia and the US would live up to international expectations in resolving the Syrian crisis.
“True, a lot depends on Russia and the United States, but the two of us will never deliver results unless our initiatives enjoy the support of the people of the region and the international community,” Lavrov said in an interview on a visit to Kazakhstan, before flying to Geneva. He added: “We need to solidly plan our initiatives on international legal principles.”