Damascus calls US-Russia deal victory for Syria

Assad has denied responsibility for the August 21 attack, saying that opposition forces carried it out using chemical weapons supplied from abroad and the US was using it as an excuse for military intervention. Reuters/ SANA
Syria\’s Minister for National Reconciliation said on Sunday that the chemical weapons agreement between Russia and the United States was a "victory" for Damascus, won by its Russian allies, and had taken away the pretext for war.
The US-Russia deal aimed at removing Syrian chemical weapons averted war and is "a victory for Syria," the Syrian minister of state for national reconciliation said.
"On one hand, it will help the Syrians emerge from the crisis and on the other it has allowed for averting war against Syria…," Ali Haidar said in an interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti in comments translated into Russian on Sunday.
Haidar, speaking in Damascus, said the framework agreement would prepare the ground for peace talks between President Bashar al-Assad\’s government and the rebels.
The deal "provides international support for all the representatives of the Syrian people to sit down at one table and to resolve their internal problems at the next stage," he said.
Haidar said that the deal "gives the opportunity to solve in the future all the problems of Syria, not only the problem of chemical weapons".
It was Russia that proposed for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons after Kerry said Assad\’s regime would never agree to do this, and Haidar explicitly thanked Russia for its initiative.
"This deal is the result of Russian diplomacy and the Russian leadership. It\’s a victory for Syria that was achieved thanks to our Russian friends," he said.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped the deal would result in the "complete destruction" of the arsenal and push the world to stop Iran from nuclear weapons armament. Netanyahu spoke before a planned meeting with Kerry, who has arrived in Israel to brief him on the accord.
U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed the deal to strip Syria of chemical weapons but says much remains to be done and Damascus must comply with the accord.
In a written statementObama said he welcomed the progress made between the U.S. and Russia in negotiations in Geneva that produced a framework agreement Saturday. He called it “an important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria’s chemical weapons under international control.
The president said much more work remained to be done, however.  He said the U.S. would “continue working with Russia, the United Kingdom, France, the United Nations and others to ensure that this process is verifiable, and that there are consequences” if the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not comply with the deal.
However, Russia would likely veto any U.N. military action. 
Obama said that if diplomacy failed, military action was still possible.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, recorded Friday before the deal was reached, the president said, in that case, force would still be an option.
“And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of U.S. military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region, to keep the pressure on the Assad regime.  And if diplomacy fails, the United States and the international community must remain prepared to act,” he said.
In that address, Obama also said it was important that diplomatic efforts succeed, to make it clear that the world will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons.
“We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children.  But if there is any chance of achieving that goal without resorting to force, then I believe we have a responsibility to pursue that path,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov say they have reached an agreement on a framework for securing Syria\’s chemical weapons after the third day of intense negotiations in Geneva.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva on Saturday, after the third day of intense negotiations, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that arms inspectors should be on the ground in Syria by November with the goal of eliminating the country\’s chemical weapons by mid-2014.
"Providing this framework is fully implemented it can end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but also to their neighbours,"  Kerry told reporters at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after they wrapped up three days of talks in Geneva.
"Because of the threat of proliferation this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world," he said.
"The world will now expect [President Bashar al-] Assad\’s regime to live up to its commitments… There can be no room for games. Or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime," he added.
Kerry and Lavrov said if Syria failed to comply, then a UN resolution would be sought under Chapter VII of the UN charter, which allows for the use of force.
Kerry said inspectors must be on the ground by November, and that the stockpiles should be removed or destroyed by mid-2014.
Lavrov said their decision was based upon "consensus and compromise", pointing out that the deal contained nothing about the potential use of force if Syria fails to comply.
But US Secretary of State John Kerry said there was no pre-agreement on what action the UN Security Council might take if Syria fails to comply with the plan, which envisages a complete destruction of its chemical weapons by mid-2014.
Lavrov suggested there could be another international peace conference on Syria by October.
"The main thing is to make sure that all Syrian sides are represented at the conference," he said.
Over the years there have been several conferences, some of which have included the Syrian opposition and excluded the government.
France, which was the only country willing to join the US in taking military action in Syria, welcomed the agreement.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it was an "important advance".
However, the military leader of the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army rejected the deal and promised to continue fighting.
"There is nothing in this agreement that concerns us," said Gen Salim Idriss, describing it as a Russian initiative designed to gain time for the Syrian government.
The United States says more than 1,400 people were killed in the attack, which the U.S. says was carried out by the Syrian military. The Assad government blames rebels for carrying out the attack.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the UN refugee agency says about one third of Syria\’s pre-war population of 20.8 million have fled their homes, either to other countries or safer areas within Syria.
Source: Agencies
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