Russia Offers Way Out Of Crisis; Syria Accepts

Two articles below. The first is a brief report from Reuters that Syria welcomes the Russian suggestion that chemical weapons be put under international control.  The second a longer AP story describing the Russian proposal and Secretary of State Kerry’s reaction that this could resolve the crisis.

The idea of removing Assad’s control of chemical weapons in Syria seem to have come from musings of Secretary of State Kerry.  Russia took those musings and turned them into a proposal which Syria accepted.  Now, reports from the U.S. are confusing. The Guardian reports:

Let’s look again at the US state department retraction of John Kerry’s statement that Assad could resolve the crisis by surrendering control of “every single bit” of his arsenal to the international community by the end of the week.

The state department emailed reporters:

Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used.

His (Kerry’s) point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.

Now Moscow and Damascus appear to have taken Kerry up on an offer he never really made.

The official US line on any concessions Assad promises to make on chemical weapons – when Kerry isn’t thinking out loud – is that any such concessions, including renewed access by UN inspectors, are “too late to be credible.”

As one commentator put it, maybe Kerry’s incompetent gaffe will lead to a way off of the road to war. More clarification will be needed from the Obama administration to see if this, along with evident political defeat in the House and rising protests and opposition around the world, will be a way out of this mess for the administration.

Russia Pushes Syria To Put Chemical Weapons Under International Control

Syria Welcomes Russian Initiative

By Alexei Anishchuk
Reuters

Syria welcomes a Russian proposal to place the nation’s chemical weapons under international control, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday after talks in Moscow, praising the Kremlin for seeking to “prevent American aggression”.

Moualem, who spoke to reporters through an interpreter after Russia expressed hope the proposal could avert military strikes against Syria, stopped short of saying explicitly that President Bashar al-Assad’s government accepted it.

“I state that the Syrian Arab Republic welcomes the Russian initiative, motivated by the Syrian leadership’s concern for the lives of our citizens and the security of our country, and also motivated by our confidence in the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is attempting to prevent American aggression against our people,” he said. (Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alison Williams)

Russian Proposal, US Reaction

By Vladimir Isachenkov
Associated Press

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.