August 25, 2012 (TSR) – Russia is working closely with the Syrian government to ensure that its arsenal of chemical weapons remains under firm control and has won promises that the weapons of mass destruction will not be used or moved, Moscow’s point man on Syria told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The potential use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict has put Russia, the Syrian regime’s steadfast ally, in a rare point of agreement with the United States, which has pressured Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down in the face of an armed uprising.
Russia has shielded Assad’s regime from U.N. sanctions and continued to provide it with weapons throughout the 18-month conflict, which activists estimate has killed more than 20,000 people. In July, Syria first acknowledged its possession of chemical weapons by threatening to use them if foreign states tried to interfere militarily.
President Barack Obama said Monday that the United States might have to intervene in Syria if the government there used or moved chemical weapons. Obama also warned of the threat of such weapons falling into the hands of rebels fighting the government or militant groups aiding either side.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Russia is in full agreement with the Americans on the need to prevent Assad’s government from using the weapons or allowing them to slip out from under its control.
“We have guarantees from the Syrian government that it will not take any steps involving chemical weapons,” the Russian diplomat said. “And I want to reiterate that on this issue we will restrain it in all ways possible and work toward the goal of preventing such things from happening.”
He said the Foreign Ministry was in constant contact with U.S. officials, pointing to last week’s visit by Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
While in Moscow, Sherman urged the Russians to make clear to Assad that the use of chemical weapons would have disastrous consequences and delivered the message that if the weapons were used, the Russians would be expected to help with the cleanup, according to a U.S. official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authorization to discuss the details of the visit.
Russia, meanwhile, is counting on the United States and others to use their influence with opposition forces to prevent the chemical weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, Gatilov said.
“As we all know, among the opposition are terrorist elements, in particular belonging to al-Qaida,” he said. “Of course, if all of a sudden, as a result of some actions, these weapons were to fall into the hands of terrorists who could take a totally irresponsible attitude toward them, this would be a very serious development.”
A senior Syrian government official, in Moscow for talks on Tuesday, said Obama’s warning indicated that the West was looking for a pretext to intervene in Syria. Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil drew a comparison with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which the Bush administration justified by claiming, falsely as it turned out, that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
The Syrian situation is different, Gatilov noted, because Syria has chemical weapons. After the Assad regime’s announcement in July, Russia pointedly reminded Syria that it had ratified a global convention banning the use of chemical weapons.
Russia has staunchly opposed demands for Assad to step down and called for talks between the Syrian regime and its foes, arguing that only the Syrian people have a right to determine the future of their country. But Syrian opposition leaders have refused to take part in negotiations until Assad gives up power.
“As to the Russian position, we never put forward as a condition the demand that Assad should go or, equally, we never said that Assad should stay,” Gatilov said.
He said Russia works with Syria’s government and meets with visiting representatives of opposition groups.
“Regrettably, we have to state that we haven’t seen our Western partners working as actively with the opposition, encouraging it to join a political dialogue,” he said. “We would like to hope that, at least on the subject of chemical weapons, they will take a rather more responsible attitude to this. We all understand that chemical weapons should not be used or fall into the hands of those groups who will not be controlled in their actions.”
The Santos Republic TRUTH versus the Hype and Media Distortions:
In a joint press conference at 0930 GMT with Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi in Tehran on July 29, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem accused armed opposition groups in Syria of not being committed to peace. He also said violence in Syria had increased, because regional powers were providing backing to opposition fighters.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem visiting for talks with senior Iranian officials that Western media exaggerates on chemical weapons in Syria.
Muallem met with Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and gave a joint news conference around 0930 GMT.
Minister al-Muallem also met the head of Iran’s supreme national security council, Saeed Jalili, who is close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Syria as an important country at the apex of the anti-Israeli resistance in the region, and the Iranian Foreign Minister urged regional people to be seriously wary of the ongoing plot against the Syrian government.
“I am surprised how certain regional countries are totally attuned to the Zionist regime when it is taking such a position against Syria,” he added.
Referring to the reforms implemented by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Salehi stated that Assad should be given the opportunity to fulfill his promises.
“If such measures [against Syria] continue in the wrong direction, their consequences will befall all regional countries and their untoward outcomes cannot be even predicted,” the Iranian minister said.
“There are already enough problems in the region and this erroneous notion that after the fall of the Syrian government it will be easily replaced by another government is bogus and fantasy,” Salehi noted.
Salehi described as delusion the thought that if a power vacuum is formed in Syria, another government would simply come to power.
He urged all parties concerned to give the Syrian government more time to implement the promised reforms.
The Iranian foreign minister stressed that Syrian people are entitled to all civil rights such as free elections and constitution.
“Since a month ago (June), we have been facing such media hype from the United States, European countries, and even from some Arab states. They are trying to pose the subject, and exaggerate on it, ” al-Muallem said at a joint press conference with Iran’s foreign minister.
“Countries like the United States, have said that Israel possesses 200 nuclear warheads, the Israelis themselves have confessed that they are in possession of nuclear weapons,” he added.
Al-Muallem stressed that “We are ready to establish a region without the weapons of mass destruction” in the Middle East.
“We say, if Israel signs Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), since we are a responsible country, therefore we are (also) committed to all international regulations, ” said al-Muallem.
The visit of Foreign Minister al-Muallem was focused on the recent developments in Syria as well as bilateral relations between Tehran and Damascus.
Syria is committed to implement Annan’s peace plan, Still! Yes, just like the 30 nations, representing 3.4 bn people which is more than half the world, also support when they went to Iran. Unfortunately, the West didn’t cover that because it would destroy the narrative that everyone buys the lies and propaganda.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al- Muallem also said on July 29 that his government is committed to implement Annan’s peace plan.
Muallem made the remarks at a press conference with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi during his visit to Iran. He also said that the rebel forces in Aleppo “will definitely be defeated” by the government troops.
“We believe that all the anti-Syrian forces have gathered in Aleppo to fight the government… and they will definitely be defeated,” he said.
Jalili also said that the United States and Israel have “an old enmity” with Syria and they want to take revenge on Syria due to their defeats in the past.
The talks between two officials were held behind the closed doors.
Iran has long been Syria’s closest Middle East ally. Both are strong pro-Palestinian supporters and staunch allies against Zionist regime of Israel.