Syria Accepts Russian Proposal To Surrender Chemical Weapons, Foreign Minister Says

Posted: 09/10/2013 7:41 am EDT  |  Updated: 09/10/2013 10:35 am EDT
Posted: 09/10/2013 7:41 am EDT | Updated: 09/10/2013 10:35 am EDT

The Associated Press reports Syria’s Foreign Minister has said his country has accepted a Russian proposal to relinquish control of its chemical arms stores:

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On Monday, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem stated that his country welcomed the Russian proposal, which called for Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control and for the weapons to be destroyed.

No time frame or further details were given about the proposal. It remained unclear whether Syria was making genuine strides toward a diplomatic resolution to the conflict that began in March 2011, or if the proposal was a ploy by Syrian President Bashar Assad to buy more time in the face of a potential U.S. strike.

More from AP:

PARIS (AP) — Syria has accepted a proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control for dismantling, the Syrian foreign minister said Tuesday, as France proposed a U.N. resolution that would enforce the plan militarily if the government failed to follow through.

The moves are part of flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at averting Western military action. Speaking in Moscow, Walid al-Moallem said his government quickly agreed to the plan to « thwart U.S. aggression » — an allusion to possible U.S.-led strikes in retaliation for a deadly Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus that Western powers blame on the Syrian regime. Syrian President Bashar Assad has denied the claim.

Russia, Syria’s most powerful ally, is now working with Damascus to prepare a detailed plan of action that will be presented soon, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. Russia will then be ready to finalize the plan with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Al-Moallem’s brief statement sounded more definitive than his remarks a day earlier, when he said Damascus welcomed Russia’s initiative. He did not provide any details about how Syria might comply.

Western officials have expressed caution about possible stalling tactics or efforts to wriggle out of international pressure by Assad’s regime in Syria, where more than 100,000 people have died in more than two years of civil war.

Al-Moallem’s response came after France said it would put forward the resolution in the U.N. Security Council aimed at forcing Syria to ultimately dismantle its chemical weapons program. France, like Russia, a permanent member of the 15-nation council, will start the resolution process Tuesday under a part of the U.N. charter that is militarily enforceable, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a quickly arranged news conference in Paris.

The proposal would also condemn the chemical weapons attack.

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