MOSCOW — Syria’s President Bashar Assad on Thursday demanded that Israel ratify international treaties on non-proliferation of nonconventional weapons, and that the US promise not to attack his regime, as he set conditions for a negotiated resolution of the crisis over his chemical weapon.
Assad said he would submit data on his country’s chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing an international convention banning the arms, adding that it was Russia, and not the US, that was making a negotiated solution possible. His comments were believed to mark Assad’s first formal acknowledgement that he has chemical weapons.
Calling a month wait the “standard process,” Assad said his country would abide by agreements, but said that such a process is “two-sided” and indicated it would only work if the US halts its threats of military action against Syria, if Washington does not arm Syrian rebels, and if Israel also ratifies weapons ban conventions.
“When we see that the United States really wants stability in our region, and will stop threatening and striving to attack, and will stop providing weapons to the terrorists, then we will consider that we can carry out these necessary processes to the end,” he said.
Speaking to Russia’s state-run Rossiya-24 TV, he added that any war against Syria would destroy the whole region.
“If we want stability in the Middle East, all the countries in the region should stick to [international] agreements,” he said. “And Israel is the first state that should do so, since Israel possessed nuclear, chemical, biological and all other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”
A United Nations spokesperson told al-Jazeera Thursday evening that the UN had received a document from Syria initiating the process of Syria declaring its chemical weapons stockpile.
Assad told the news channel that his government had agreed to surrender its chemical weapons in response to Russia’s initiative and not because of the US threat of attack.
“Syria is transferring chemical weapons under international control because of Russia,” Assad said.
Assad tells Russian TV: This is a 2-way street and (any arrangement) should be based on the US removing the threat of force [trans]. #Syria
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) September 12, 2013
Assad added that “the US threats hadn’t influenced” his government’s decision.
“The most important role belongs to the Russian government, because we do not trust the United States and have no contact. Russia is the only government that can carry this out right now,” he said.
Russia on Monday proposed that Syria place its chemical weapons under international control and eventually dismantle them in order to avert a US strike, and Syria quickly accepted the proposal.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov were set to sit down together to discuss details of the plan in Geneva later Thursday.
Speaking to his Cabinet Thursday, US President Barack Obama said he hoped the two could work out a deal with a “concrete result.”
“I know that [Kerry] is going to be working very hard over the next several days to see what the possibilities are there,” he said.