BERLIN — Russia on Monday urged Syria to put its chemical weapons stores under international control, intended for destruction, as a way to avoid a western military response to the alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his government had been in contact with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to make the request, and was hoping for “a fast and positive answer.”
“We are calling on the Syrian authorities not only to agree on putting chemical weapons stores under international control, but also for its further destruction and then joining the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Lavrov said, referring to the international body that oversees adherence to chemical weapons bans. The United States has blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad for the chemical attack.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at a London news conference, said such an agreement would be one way to avoid a U.S. military strike. But he also suggested that he believed Assad was unlikely to agree to the terms in time to head off a U.S.-led attack.
“Bashar al-Assad and his brother Maher al-Assad, and a general are the three people that have the control over the movement and use of chemical weapons. But under any circumstances, the Assad regime is the Assad regime, and the regime issues orders, and we have regime members giving these instructions and engaging in these preparations with results going directly to President Assad.”
A U.S. State Department statement noted that Kerry did not believe Assad would turn over his chemical weapons.
“His 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,” the statement said. “That’s why the world faces this moment.”