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16 Sep, 2013 10:06

West vows to boost Syria rebels, Russia says they should be 'compelled' to join peace talks

West vows to boost Syria rebels, Russia says they should be 'compelled' to join peace talks

The US, UK and France have agreed to bolster Syrian rebels by providing more help, press Syria into delivering on its promise to hand over chemical weapons and seek an end to the conflict, which would involve ousting of President Bashar Assad.

The intentions were voiced by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his counterparts from Washington and London at a joint media conference.

Fabius was speaking in Paris just days after the US and Russia reached an agreement under which Washington will put its plans to use military force against Syrian President Bashar Assad on hold in exchange for Damascus dismantling its chemical weapons arsenal.

West hopes for Syria without Assad

US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed America’s adherence to the plan, but said there must be consequences for Syria if it does not deliver on its promise. The disarmament deal is to be formalized by a UN Security Council resolution yet to be voted on. 

Meanwhile UK Foreign Secretary William Hague pledged that the three countries would work with Russia to gather an international conference in Geneva to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis.

A political solution is part of the plan, which was unveiled by Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last Saturday. Organization of the Geneva-2 conference has been delayed for months, as Syrian opposition forces opposed it.

Still Kerry stressed Washington’s position that the UN resolution is not “a lifeline” for Assad, who, the UN official said, has “lost all legitimacy” after more than two years of fighting with rebel forces.

Force rebels to talk peace – Russia

Meanwhile Lavrov said it may be time for the West to force the Syrian opposition to attend the planned Geneva conference. He was speaking in Moscow after meeting Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy.

He added that the plan that Russia agreed to follow did not involve any automatic use of military force against Syria unless sanctioned by the UN Security Council.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks in Moscow, on September 16, 2013, during a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Nabily Fahmy.(Vasily Maximov)

Lavrov stressed that the exact details of the terms for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile are yet to be determined by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), while the future UNSC resolution is to endorse the decision of that organization rather than enforce particular terms on its own. This is part of the agreement the US and Russia reached, he said.

The destruction of the stockpiles would be the responsibility of the Syrian government and the CWC, the Russian minister pointed out, but international community may be required to provide “additional international personnel” to provide security at the sites where the weapons would be scrapped.

Chemical disarmament plan

The US threatened to use military force against the Assad government after the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian against rebel forces in August. The threats came after years of support of the Syrian rebels by Washington and its allies.

Syria denies having any role in the suspected sarin attack and says it was a provocation of the opposition fighters aimed at securing US military help. Russia, a supporter of Damascus, shares this view.

Russia brokered a deal with Syria, under which it applied for membership in the CWC. Joining the international organization involves destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal.

Damascus is expected to submit within a week’s time an inventory of related arms and facilities, which will be put under international control in the wake of the chemical disarmament.