Syria accepts Russian proposal on chemical weapons
11 September, 2013
NEW YORK: Despite Syria's acceptance to the Russian proposal to hand over its chemical weapons to the United Nations, the US and its Western allies do not seem to be fully willing to address the Syrian crisis by peaceful means.
On Tuesday, France circulated a draft resolution calling for the UN Security Council to take punitive action against Syria for possessing and allegedly using chemical weapons, diplomatic sources told.
However, they added that as a result of the Russian proposal and UN chief Ban Ki-moon's intense efforts to engage a number of world leaders into talks over Syria, some progress had been made that might lead to a negotiable end to the crisis.
"Things are moving very quickly," Ban's spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told reporters on Tuesday, adding that the UN chief had been constantly in touch with a number of world leaders since he returned to New York from Russia.
On Monday, some top Syrian government officials held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which they reportedly described as "very fruitful" after declaring that they agreed to the proposal to transfer their chemical weapons to the UN.
In a statement, Walid Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, stressed that the deal on chemical weapons was designed to "pull the rug from under the feet of American aggression".
The Russian proposal on chemical weapons to be under international control would be a condition to avoid military involvement in the country.
In response to the Russian position, Obama said on Monday he "would consider this a modestly positive development" and that he was willing to "absolutely" put on pause a military strike against Syria if Bashar Assad accepts the offer.
"Let's see if we can come up with language that avoids a strike, but accomplishes our key goals to make sure that these chemical weapons are not used," Obama told ABC News.
The Congressional vote on Obama's plan to attack Syria is still awaited, and so is the UN inspectors' report on the alleged use of chemical weapons.
Observers say in the wake of the Russian proposal, it is possible that lawmakers might decide to delay the vote.
Recent polls suggest that more than 50 percent of Americans are against any kind of military intervention in the Syrian conflict. There are also reports in the US media of growing opposition to the proposed attack in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The inspectors' mandate allows them only to verify whether chemical weapons were used or not. They are not supposed to determine as to who used the chemical weapons, UN officials said on Tuesday in response to reporters' questions. Meanwhile, at the press time, the Security Council was due to discuss the Syrian situation.