September 13, 2013

Broader Syria peace talks? Chemical weapons first

Kerry and his Russian counterpart haven't made substantial progress on the weapons issue, even as evidence mounts that Syria gassed its own people.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, from left, UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appear during a news conference following their meeting at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. Kerry and Lavrov say the prospects for a resumption in the Syria peace process are riding on the outcome of their chemical weapons talks. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini)

Related headlines

Assad has had the weapons distributed around the country in as many as four dozen sites for some time, and the U.S. has detected limited movements of the weapons in the last week or so, said two officials, speaking only on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss intelligence matters.

At the United Nations, Ban said Assad's government "has committed many crimes against humanity."

"Therefore, I'm sure that there will be surely the process of accountability when everything is over," he said in response to a question.

U.N. inspectors were sent to Syria to decide whether chemical weapons were used, but their mandate did not include assigning blame. The Obama administration says it has evidence that the Syrian government was behind the attack and that 1,429 people died. Some other estimates are lower, and the Syrian government has pointed to the rebels as the culprits. But the government also has expressed willingness to begin eliminating the weapons.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in two years of civil war marked by grisly reports of attacks on civilians. On Friday, the international group Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian government and militias fighting on its side of carrying out summary executions of at least 248 people in two towns in May. And the United Nation said it was allocating a record $50 million to help the millions of refugees from the war.

Russian and American weapons experts met several times Friday in Geneva to try to work out acceptable details for the expensive and difficult process of actually eliminating Syria's chemical weapons.

Lavrov said that Russia had supported the peace process from the start of the Syrian conflict and that he had discussed with Kerry and Brahimi the Geneva communique from the 2012 meeting on Syria and ways of preparing for a second conference.

"It is very unfortunate that for a long period the Geneva communique was basically abandoned," said Lavrov.

Salem Al Meslet, a senior member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said he was disappointed that the Kerry and Lavrov meeting wasn't about punishing Assad.

"They are leaving the murderer and concentrating on the weapons he was using," he said of Assad. "It is like stabbing somebody with a knife then they take the knife away and he is free."

Assad, in an interview with Russia's Rossiya-24 TV, said the Russian proposal for securing the weapons could work only if the U.S. halted threats of military action.

At a meeting in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syria's efforts have demonstrated its good faith. "I would like to voice hope that this will mark a serious step toward the settlement of the Syrian crisis," Putin said.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)