Putin: Syria chem arms handover will work only if US calls off strike
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.
"Of course, all of this will only mean anything if the United States and other nations supporting it tell us that they're giving up their plan to use force against Syria. You can’t really ask Syria, or any other country, to disarm unilaterally while military action against it is being contemplated," President Putin said on Tuesday.
President Putin said that the matter of bringing Syria’s chemical
weapons under international control has long been a subject of
discussion by experts and politicians.
Putin confirmed 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 work together and see if they can achieve some progress in this regard."
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.
At the same time, Syria said it was ready to completely give up
chemical weapons and sign the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“We are ready to show sites with chemical arsenals to Russia’s representatives, as well as representatives of other states and the UN,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV.
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.