September 10, 2013
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syria’s chemical arms handover will only work if the US and its allies renounce the use of force against Damascus.
“Certainly, this is all reasonable, it will function and will work out, only if the US and those who support it on this issue pledge to renounce the use of force, because it is difficult to make any country – Syria or any other country in the world – to unilaterally disarm if there is military action against it under consideration,” President Putin said on Tuesday.
Putin said the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons had been extensively discussed by experts and politicians.
The Russian president said that he and President Barack Obama had “indeed discussed” such a possibility on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg last week.
It was agreed, Putin said, “to instruct Secretary of State [John Kerry] and Foreign Minister [Sergey Lavrov] to get in touch” and “try to move this idea forward.”
President Putin’s comments came shortly after the Syrian government said it would agree to place its chemical weapons arsenal under international control.
On Tuesday, Britain, France and the US said they would table a resolution on Syrian chemical weapons to the UN Security Council later in the day.
An emergency closed-door meeting at the Security Council is scheduled to take place at 4:00pm EST (20:00 GMT), the UN press office said.
“If this is a serious proposal, then we should act accordingly and I think a UN Security Council resolution is a good idea,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said.
However, the US and France said they would not rule out any possible reaction to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Interfax cited the Elysee Palace as saying in a statement.
According to the news agency, “the presidents of France and the US reiterated that they would prefer a diplomatic solution, but they have also expressed willingness to retain any other options to neutralize the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry will propose a draft statement by the chairman of the UN Security Council, supporting the initiative to transfer Syria’s chemical weapons to international control.
The issue was discussed during a phone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius.
“[Lavrov] said that Russia, on its part, is submitting a draft statement for the UN Security Council’s chairman, welcoming the… initiative and calling on the UN Secretary General, the general director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and all the interested parties to make efforts to facilitate the implementation of this proposal,” the ministry’s statement said.
Despite voicing “some serious skepticism,” Western countries supported Russia’s proposal, stressing the importance of Assad fulfilling the agreement and surrendering the weapons stockpiles.
Britain said it would like Russia and Syria to show that the proposal to President Bashar Assad is“serious and genuine.”
In Washington, the White House echoed the UK statement, saying it wanted to verify that Syria was serious in its intentions.
Earlier, the French government said that the handover of Syria’s chemical weapons to international control should be closely scrutinized. France said it would table a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling on Syria to give up its stockpiles of chemical arms, threatening “extremely serious”consequences if Syria violates its conditions.
Obama’s administration, which last week was firmly insisting on military intervention following the Aug.21 chemical weapons attack, has now changed its position.
In response to Russia’s proposal, Obama said he was willing to “absolutely” put on pause a military strike on Syria if Assad accepts the offer.
The US Senate was initially scheduled to vote on whether to authorize “limited military actions,” but a Senate Democratic leadership aide said it was now not known if the Senate would vote this week on Syria.
“We want to give the president a chance to make his case,” the aide said, adding that following President Obama’s speech Tuesday night, Senate leaders would review the situation.