Syria claims full membership of chemical arms treaty

Assad’s envoy to UN says WMDs are ‘mere deterrence against Israel’; UN officials: It’s not yet clear all conditions have been fulfilled

Bashar al-Jaafari (right) at the UN General Assembly at the United Nations in August 2012 (AP/Kathy Willens)
Bashar al-Jaafari (right) at the UN General Assembly at the United Nations in August 2012 (AP/Kathy Willens)

Syria is now a full member of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja’afari said Thursday.

In a press conference shortly after submitting the relevant documents to the UN, al-Ja’afari told reporters that “legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the convention.”

UN officials speaking on condition of anonymity cited by Reuters said it was still unclear if Syria had fulfilled all the conditions for legal accession to the treaty.

“I think there are a few more steps they have to take but that’s why we’re studying the document,” a UN official told Reuters.

This move by Syria is meant as part of a Russian-brokered deal to stave off a potential US strike in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in a August 21 attack that according to US figures, killed 1,429 people.

Al-Ja’afari said President Bashar Assad signed a legal decree Thursday that “declared the Syrian Arab Republic approval to accede to the convention.”

“The chemical weapons in Syria are a mere deterrence against the Israeli nuclear arsenal,” al-Ja’afari said as he waved a document he said was a CIA report on Israel’s chemical weapons program, Reuters reported.

“It’s a deterrent weapon and now the time has come for the Syrian government to join the [convention] as a gesture to show our willingness to be against all weapons of mass destruction.”

Syria was one of seven countries not to have signed the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. Angola, Egypt, North Korea, South Sudan have not signed the treaty while Israel and Myanmar signed but never ratified it.

Earlier Thursday, 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.

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.”

Also Thursday, speaking at a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry noted that Assad said a 30-day lead time would be standard, but asserted that there is “nothing standard” about the process, because Assad has used his chemical weapons.

That won’t do, Kerry declared, a stone-faced Lavrov at his side. “The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough.”

“This is not a game,” Kerry said of the latest developments in a series that has rapidly gone from deadly chemical attacks to threats of retaliatory US air strikes to Syrian agreement with a Russian plan to turn over the weapons and, finally, to the crucial matter of working out the difficult details.

AP contributed to this report.

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