Assad says U.S. must stop threats before he cedes control of chemical weapons
GENEVA— Secretary of State John Kerry demanded on Thursday that the Syrian government keep its pledge to give up its chemical weapons arsenal and warned that talks with his Russian counterpart cannot become a delaying tactic.
Appearing before reporters alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry said that “achieving a peaceful resolution is clearly preferable to military action” to degrade Syria's chemical weapons capabilities. But he said it was “too early to tell whether or not these efforts will succeed.”
The United States is serious about “engaging in substantive, meaningful negotiations,” Kerry said, even as the military maintains pressure on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Kerry spoke after Assad said in a Russian television interview that he was willing to cede control of his country's chemical weapons — but only if the United States stops threatening military action and sending weapons to Syrian rebels.
The Syrian dictator, who is accused of authorizing a poison-gas attack last month that killed more than 1,400 civilians in rebel-held or contested areas, also seemed to link any relinquishing of his arsenal to a requirement that Israel give up the nuclear weapons that it is widely believed to have — but does not acknowledge possessing.
No country in the Middle East, especially Israel, should possess weapons of mass destruction, Assad said in the interview with Rossiya 24 television.
Assad even blamed the United States for last month's chemical attack. “The threats were based on a provocation,” he said. “It was carried out using chemical weapons in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. That provocation was carried out by the U.S. administration.”
“When we see the United States really wants stability in our region and stops threatening, striving to attack, and also ceases arms deliveries to terrorists, then we will believe that the necessary processes can be finalized,” Assad said.
He pledged that Damascus would begin handing over information on its chemical weapons stockpiles one month after it joins an international convention outlawing such weapons, as is the standard practice.
Reacting to Assad's position, Kerry said in Geneva, “We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this moment” because of what he called the Syrian regime's “massive” and “unacceptable” use of chemical weapons to massacre its citizens on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21.
“We have in no uncertain terms made it clear that we cannot allow that to happen again,” Kerry said in the joint appearance with Lavrov. “The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough.”
In New York, Syria delivered a document to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon indicating that the Syrian government plans to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. Farhan Haq, a spokesman for Ban, said the United Nations is translating and studying the document, which is in Arabic, and would make it public in “due time.” It was not immediately clear whether the document included any pre-conditions.
“This starts the process” of becoming a member of the 1993 convention, Haq said.
The Syrian action “is the first positive step to secure the chemical weapons in Syria,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ireland voters expected to OK gay marriage
- Eiffel Tower temporarily shut down as employees walk out
- Terrorists capture Palmyra; Syrians fear destruction of antiquities
- Iranian aid ship on final approach to Yemen
- U.S., Cuba move closer to accord as talks held
- Islamic State’s takeover of Palmyra puts Syria’s ancient ruins in peril
- ISIS captures city, zeroes in on 2 towns
- Army commando team kills senior Islamic State official in Syria raid
- China orders U.S. plane to divert from airspace over islands in South China Sea
- Guatemala interior minister resigns amid political crisis
- Afghan security forces’ casualties mount as U.S. draws back