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US-Russia reach landmark deal on destruction of Syria chemical weapons arsenal

Providing this framework is fully implemented it can end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but also their neighbors – John Kerry

RT | September 14, 2013

Russia and the United States reached a deal on a framework that will see the destruction or removal of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid- 2014. Under the plan, the Assad government has one week to hand over an inventory of its chemical weapons arsenal.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry announced the plan on putting an end to Syria’s chemical weapons program following their third day of negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Kerry outlined several points of the plan, which would see the “rapid assumption of control by the international community” of Syria’s chemical weapons. He further stressed US-Russia commitment to the complete destruction of not only of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, but also its production and refinement capabilities.

Syria will also become a party to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which outlaws their production and use.

Damascus must submit within a week’s time – “and not 30 days” – a complete inventory of related arms, “including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production and research and development facilities.”

The Syrian government should provide the OPCW, the UN and other supporting personnel “with the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria.” Lavrov later said that security for all international inspectors on the ground should be provided for not only by the government, but opposition forces as well.

It remains undecided who will actually be tasked with destroying the stock, although their destruction “outside of Syria” and under “OPWC supervision” would prove to be optimal.

On the timetable, Kerry said UN inspectors must be on the ground no later than November, while the destruction of chemical weapons must be completed by the middle of 2014.

“Providing this framework is fully implemented it can end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but also their neighbors,” Kerry said adding that Russian and US teams of experts had reached “a shared assessment” of the existing stockpile and that Syria must destroy all of its weapons. It was possible that the Syrian rebels have some chemical weapons, he acknowledged.

If Damascus fails to comply with the plan, a response in accordance with UN Charter Chapter 7 will follow, Kerry said, in a reference to the use of military force. The chapter provides for “action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security” in the event other measures fail.

But Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said the agreement did not include any potential use of force against Syria. He however said that deviations from the plan, including attacks on UN inspectors, would be brought to the UN Security Council, which would decide on further action.

There is no prior agreement about what form the Security Council’s measures might take if Syria does not comply, Kerry said.

Kick starting Geneva II

Meanwhile, both sides reiterated previously stated intentions to meet with Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, on the margins of the UN General Assembly on September 28.

Speaking alongside Kerry and Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, Brahimi said ongoing work to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control was a necessary step for convening the Geneva II conference. The conference, which is intended to hammer out a political solution to the brutal civil war which has embroiled Syria for over two years, could be held in October, Lavrov told reporters.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to present a report to the Security Council which sources say contains overwhelming evidence that “chemical weapons were used” in an August 21 attack in a Damascus Suburb which killed between 355 and 1,729 people.

The government of Bashar Assad strongly denied government forces were responsible for the attack, while the West overwhelmingly blamed Damascus, prompting US Barack Obama’s threat of military action.

Obama has threatened to strike Syria unilaterally, prompting Russia’s Saturday’s joint proposal which will see Syria’s chemical weapons brought under international control.

Although President Assad immediately acquiesced to the Russian-backed plan, rebel forces have resisted efforts which have staved off Western intervention in the country.

On Saturday, the Free Syrian Army rejected a US-Russian deal as a stalling tactic and vowed to continue fighting to topple the Assad government.

“The Russian-American initiative does not concern us. It only seeks to gain time,” said Salim Idriss, the chief of the FSA command, said.

“We completely ignore this initiative and will continue to fight to bring down the regime,” he told a press conference Saturday in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

September 14, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on US-Russia reach landmark deal on destruction of Syria chemical weapons arsenal

Turkish prosecutors indict Syrian rebels for seeking chemical weapons

RT | September 14, 2013

A court indictment by the Turkish prosecutors into the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian rebels has once again highlighted fears this week that sarin toxic gas was used by the opposition and not the Assad government.

The prosecutor in the Turkish city of Adana has issued a 132-page indictment, alleging that six men of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham tried to seek out chemicals with the intent to produce the nerve agent, sarin gas, a number of Turkish publications reported.

The main suspect in the case, 35-year-old Syrian-national Hytham Qassap has been charged with “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “attempting to acquire weapons for a terrorist organization.” The other 5, all Turkish nationals are being charged with “attempting to acquire weapons for a terrorist organization.”

The indictment alleges that Qassap tried to setup a network in Turkey in order to obtain chemical materials for the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham Brigades. Citing telephone calls made by the cell, the prosecution believes that the group ordered at least ten tons of chemicals, Al-Alam News Network reports.

The prosecution also dismissed claims that the suspects were unaware of their wrong doing. “The claim that the suspects didn’t know about the possibility of producing sarin nerve gas from the chemicals they tried to buy is not true which was established when they were testifying,” the document reads.

Meanwhile all six suspects have pleaded not guilty. “The suspects have pleaded not guilty saying that they had not been aware the materials they had tried to obtain could have been used to make sarin gas. Suspects have been consistently providing conflicting and incoherent facts on this matter,” the indictment said.

If convicted, Qassab faces a 25 year prison sentence, while his accomplices face 15 years prison terms.

The six men were a part of a group of 11 people arrested in their safe house in Adana on May 23, 2013. Their apprehension came about after surveillance by Turkish police who’d received a tip that Syrian jihadists were trying to acquire two government-regulated military-grade chemical substances. Five of the detained were released from custody after questioning, background checks and after lab tests proved that chemicals seized during the arrest were not sarin gas.

The international community has long been ignoring worrying reports that the rebel fighters in Syria might be capable of carrying out a chemical attack. Russian President, Vladimir Putin also reiterated this week that while no one doubts that poison gas was indeed used in Syria, there is “every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”

Evidence that chemical weapons were used by the opposition was also highlighted by the two European hostages that were freed from Syrian rebel captivity last Sunday. In a phone conversation overheard by hostage Pierre Piccinin da Prata, he said it was clear the rebels used gas on civilians in an August 21 attack near Damascus.

“I don’t think that Bashar Al-Assad and the Syrian government are to blame for the chemical attack in Al-Ghouta,” Piccinin told RT. “It would have been absurd for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons.”

The Syrian government has always rejected any accusations of using chemical weapons. After one of the first alleged incidents in Aleppo in March, it was the government that called on the UN to send in chemical experts. Another alleged chemical weapons use was reported in Homs in December 2012.

Russian experts flew out to the site of the attack in March to collect samples from the incident. On 9 July 2013, Moscow submitted the results of its inquiry into the use of chemical weapons at Aleppo to the United Nations. Russian scientists analyzing the 19 March 2013 attack found that it was most likely launched by opposition forces, and not the Syrian government.

“It was determined that on March 19 the rebels fired an unguided missile Bashair-3 at the town of Khan al-Assal, which has been under government control. The results of the analysis clearly show that the shell used in Khan al-Assal was not factory made and that it contained sarin,” UN envoy Vitaly Churkin has said.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria into the attack in March concluded that no evidence of the use of sarin by Syria’s government troops has so far been uncovered. The lead investigator, Carla Del Ponte, did hint that it was the rebels that most likely used the chemical weapons.

“The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict.  As a result, the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, the UN chemical weapons inspection team has completed the report on the latest chemical attack in Syria on August 21 and will deliver it to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon over the weekend.

“I believe that the report will be an overwhelming report that chemical weapons (were) used, even though I cannot publicly say at this time before I receive this report,” Moon said.

Although the team was not authorized to draw any conclusions on who was the perpetrator of the attack, a number of US officials speaking to the media on condition of anonymity over the last couple of days indicated that the report would hint the Assad government was responsible.

September 14, 2013 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, War Crimes | , , | Comments Off on Turkish prosecutors indict Syrian rebels for seeking chemical weapons

Obama: US will continue threatening Syria

Press TV – September 14, 2013

obama_yes_we_can_murderUS President Barack Obama has said the US will continue to threaten Syria with the use of force as the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to put its chemical weapons under the control of the United Nations.

“We need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons … And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of US military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region,” Obama said in his weekly address to Americans on Saturday.

The threat came after the Syrian ambassador to the UN said on Thursday that his country became a full member of the international treaty prohibiting chemical weapons.

After Russia offered a diplomatic proposal for putting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control on Monday, Obama called on Congress to delay a vote on his call for a military action against Syria.

Nevertheless, in his weekly address to Americans, Obama said, “If diplomacy fails, the United States and the international community must remain prepared to act.”

Obama’s talk of “the international community” comes as senior officials within his administration have said he would not push for a United Nations Security Council resolution threatening Syria with the use of force.

This comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an op-ed published by The New York Times on Wednesday that a possible US attack on Syria “is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.”

Meanwhile, recent polls have revealed a growing opposition to military action against Syria both within the US military and America’s war-weary public.

September 14, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , | Comments Off on Obama: US will continue threatening Syria