Signaling its willingness to surrender its stockpile of chemical weapons, Syria has welcomed Russia’s call to hand over charge of its huge cache of chemical weapons arsenal to the international community.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, in response to the statement by his Russian counterpart said: “Syria Arab Republic welcomes Russia’s initiative, based on the Syrian’s government care about the lives of our people and security of our country.”
Earlier, during a meeting in Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a surprise move had made the request, during his talks with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem.
Lavrov reportedly said: “We are calling on the Syrian authorities not only agree on putting chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on their subsequent destruction.”
Further Lavrov told Muallem that Syria should also become a full member of the chemical weapons convention, which is the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
“We do not know if Syria agrees to this, but if placing the chemical weapons under international control helps avoid military strikes, then we will immediately get to work on this,” said Lavrov to Reuters.
The statement was prompted by a comment made by John Kerry, US Secretary of State, suggesting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a US strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, the Syrian foreign minister told reporters through an interpreter that Syria welcomed the Russian initiative. He even praised Russia for “attempting to prevent American aggression against our people.”
However, the US appears to have taken this latest news with skepticism, but said they would have a “hard look” at the plan by the two allies Russia and Syria.
According to Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, the US government would study the proposal but said he was skeptical about the credibility of the Assad regime.
“In an interview earlier, Assad refused to even acknowledge that he has chemical weapons. Of course, the whole world knows he does,” said Carney.
Meanwhile, this latest development has not hindered the US plan to push for strikes in Syria. Carney promised that the US would continue to do so as the credible threat of military action was critical in putting pressure on the Syrian regime.
British Prime Minister David Cameron responded to the Russia-Syria talks by telling parliament the destruction of the chemical weapons under international supervision would clearly be a “huge step forward.” But, he warned that it should not be used as a “distraction tactic.”
“We have to be careful though to make sure this is not a distraction tactic to discuss something else rather than the problem on the table,” cautioned Cameron.