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9 Sep, 2013 14:16

Russia urges Syria hand over chemical weapons to intl control to avoid strike

Russia urges Syria hand over chemical weapons to intl control to avoid strike

Russia has urged Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent destruction to avert a possible military strike.

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“We are calling on the Syrian authorities not only agree on putting chemical weapons storages under international control, but also for its further destruction and then joining the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Lavrov said. “We have passed our offer to[Syrian Foreign Minister]Walid al-Muallem and hope to receive a fast and positive answer,” he added. 

It is unclear if Syria will support the offer, but if it helps to avoid a military strike, Russia is immediately prepared to work with Damascus, Lavrov said.

The Foreign Minister’s statement comes shortly after US Secretary of State John Kerry’s comment that the Syrian President “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community” to avoid a military strike on the country.

"Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week - turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting [of it[, but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done," Kerry said.

Following Kerry’s statement, a US State Department spokeswoman clarified that “Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons”.

"His [Kerry's[ point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That's why the world faces this moment," the spokeswoman said.

The Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said that Damascus was ready for "full cooperation with Russia to remove any pretext for aggression."

The Russian and Syrian Foreign Ministers met in Moscow on Monday. 

As part of their meeting, Lavrov and al-Muallem urged for opposition and the government to unite their efforts in expelling terrorists from Syria. The two agreed that a political settlement is still possible.

Sergey Lavrov said that more and more states share Russia's belief that military action in Syria will only inflame terrorism.

Russia and Syria urged the US to focus on convening a peace conference to end a more than two-year long crisis, rather than launching military strikes.  

With Obama seeking Congress’ support for military action to respond to an alleged chemical attack near Damascus, al-Muallem said "the diplomatic channels to resolve this issue have not been exhausted".

“We ask about the motivation of the US to launch a strike against us", he said.

Lavrov has reiterated Moscow's full support for calls by the UN Security Council to bring chemical experts back to Syria to complete their mission. 

In response to the news, Syria's top rebel commander has accused President Bashar Assad's regime and Moscow of deceit. "We call for strikes and we warn the international community that this [Assad] regime tells lies, and the liar [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is its teacher. Putin is the biggest liar," Free Syrian Army chief Selim Idriss told Al Jazeera.

"The regime wants to buy time to save itself,"
Idriss added.

He also warned “decision makers” against falling into Assad’s “trap of deceit and dishonesty.”