Russia to push Syria to surrender chemical weapons

MOSCOW — In a surprise move, Russia promised Monday to push its ally Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control and then dismantle them quickly to avert U.S. strikes.

The announcement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came a few hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Syrian President Bashar Assad could resolve the crisis surrounding the alleged use of chemical weapons by his forces by surrendering control of “every single bit” of his arsenal to the international community by the end of the week.

Kerry added that he thought Assad “isn’t about to do it,” but Lavrov, who just wrapped a round of talks in Moscow with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem, said that Moscow would try to convince the Syrians.

“If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus,” Lavrov said.

“We are calling on the Syrian leadership to not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on its subsequent destruction and fully joining the treaty on prohibition of chemical weapons,” he said.

Lavrov said that he has already handed over the proposal to al-Moallem and expects a “quick, and, hopefully, positive answer.”

His statement followed media reports alleging that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who discussed Syria with President Barack Obama during the group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg last week, sought to negotiate a deal that would have Assad hand over control of chemical weapons.

Speaking earlier in the day, Lavrov denied that Russia was trying to sponsor any deal “behind the back of the Syrian people.”

The Russian move comes as Obama, who has blamed Assad for killing hundreds of his own people in a chemical attack last month, is pressing for a limited strike against the Syrian government. It has denied launching the attack, insisting along with its ally Russia that the attack was launched by the rebels to drag the U.S. into war.

Lavrov and al-Moallem said after their talks that U.N. chemical weapons experts should complete their probe and present their findings to the U.N. Security Council.

Al-Moallem said his government was ready to host the U.N. team, and insisted that Syria is ready to use all channels to convince the Americans that it wasn’t behind the attack.

He added that Syria was ready for “full cooperation with Russia to remove any pretext for aggression.”

Neither minister, however, offered any evidence to back their claim of rebel involvement in the chemical attack.

Lavrov said that Russia will continue to promote a peaceful settlement and may try to convene a gathering of all Syrian opposition figures to join in negotiations. He added that a U.S. attack on Syria would deal a fatal blow to peace efforts.

Lavrov wouldn’t say how Russia could respond to a possible U.S. attack on Syria, saying that “we wouldn’t like to proceed from a negative scenario and would primarily take efforts to prevent a military intervention.”

Putin said that Moscow would keep providing assistance to Syria in case of U.S. attack, but he and other Russian officials have made clear that Russia has no intention of engaging in hostilities.

More in Local News

Treatment center in north Everett could open in 2020

The 32-bed facility on 10th Street would serve people with addiction and mental illness.

NOPEYEP, YEPNOPE: We love our personalized license plates

Street Smarts asked you to send in vanity plate finds, and readers did not disappoint.

Bill Short, 74, and his sister Pat Veale, 73, attended the old Emander School, which was near what’s now I-5 and 128th Street in south Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Woman wants to commemorate a neighborhood long gone

Pat Veale and her siblings grew up in the Emander area of south Everett.

Somers sees Paine Field as focal point of a thriving county

In an annual speech, he also acknowledged challenges such as opioid addiction, crime and homelessness.

Man revived from opioid overdose at county jail

He was taken to Providence Regional Medical Center then returned to the jail a few hours later.

Man arrested after robbery reported at Lynnwood Walgreens

He matched the description of a suspect in an earlier robbery reported about three miles away.

Bomb threat clears lobby at the Snohomish County Jail

Officers shut down Oakes Avenue between Wall Street and Pacific Avenue in downtown Everett.

Slide prompts closure of Whitehorse trail east of Arlington

More than two miles of the route will be closed indefinitely “due to significant earth movement.”

Front Porch

OPPORTUNITY Call for Artists The city of Monroe is looking for artists… Continue reading

Most Read