Syria’s chemical disarmament opens way to political settlement

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
Syria’s chemical disarmament opens way to political settlement
The Russian-American agreement on placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control provide an opportunity for settling the crisis in Syria.

However, there should be no illusions that the process of chemical weapons destruction will be a cakewalk.

The endorsement by the UN Security Council of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recommendation on overseeing the destruction of Syria’s CW, which resulted in establishment of a first-ever joint UN/OPCW mission, is an important step in this direction. This will enable countries, including Russia, to assess in more detail the parameters of their participation in the chemical disarmament of Syria. We strongly believe that only immediate and concrete actions by the international community in support of the joint effort of Syria and the OPCW will successfully help solve the task of eliminating chemical weapons in the first half of 2014.

But it will be a challenging task. Not only because a number of storage facilities might be located in battle zones. Reports about some third countries illegally using uncontrolled territories of Afghanistan to train militants to fight against the Syrian Government, including handling chemical warfare agents, prove once again that not all of those involved are interested in a successful outcome for Syria’s chemical disarmament. Resolution 2118 places responsibility for ensuring the safety and full implementation of the OPCW and UN Security Council decisions not only on the Syrian Government, but on the Syrian opposition, as well as other players, including neighboring countries.

The headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). (AFP Photo / Guus Schoonewille)

As Mr Ban Ki-moon rightly stated in his proposal to the UNSC, the only way to bring peace back to this country and to its people is through an inclusive Syrian-led political process. The very same UNSC resolution provides for convening an international conference in order to give the Syrians an opportunity to agree on how to fully implement the provisions of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012. The apparent logic is that the clear and timely destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons create conditions for the launch of Geneva-2.

Meanwhile, it is critical, as Russia believes, to set a date for convening the conference as soon as possible, since delay plays into the hands of radicals and terrorist groups, which are increasingly gaining ground among those fighting against the Syrian Government. Threats associated with the strengthening of the positions of the extremists, with many foreigners among them, are clear. For one, they are not interested in any political settlement. 

The chief obstacle now is the failure of the Syrian opposition to say “yes” to the conference and negotiate with the Syrian Government. Russia has long warned that there would be a lot of hurdles on the road to Geneva-2, citing those opposed to any political process who are trying to create any excuse to provoke outside military intervention for a regime change. And yet we expect that the countries who have an influence over various opposition groups are aware of their responsibility for doing their part in getting Geneva-2 started.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.