A Syrian government minister credited Russia Sunday for averting a possible US-led attack on Syria, referring to an American-Russian agreement Saturday regarding Syria’s chemical weapons as a “victory.”
The deal, struck by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, calls for the Assad regime to submit a full inventory of its stockpile by September 21, and for all components of the Syrian chemical weapons program to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.
Syrian Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar was the first Syrian official to refer to the deal, telling Russian news agency Ria Novosti that “on the one hand, it helps Syria come out of the crisis and, on the other, it helps avoid the war against Syria by depriving those who wanted to launch it of arguments to do so.”
He said it was “a victory for Syria, achieved thanks to our Russian friends.”
US President Barack Obama referred to the agreement in his weekly address Saturday, remarking that despite his willingness to follow a diplomatic route in handling Syria, a military operation could still take place should Assad not comply with the agreement. “We will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime,” said the president, adding, “If diplomacy fails, the United States and the international community must remain prepared to act.”
The international community has welcomed the agreement. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking at a meeting Sunday with his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, hailed the deal, saying it would “ease the current tense situation that may be triggered at any moment in Syria and creates new prospects for resolving the chemical weapons issue in Syria through peaceful means.” The French foreign minister, whose country has supported the Syrian rebels, said that the deal was “a significant step forward.”
Israel, meanwhile, has expressed cautious optimism about the agreement.
“We hope the understandings bear fruit,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. “Those understandings will be judged by the results.”