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France Sets Conditions for Russian Proposal on Syria

A proposal to have Assad hand over his chemical weapons arsenal is acceptable under certain conditions, says French FM Fabius.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/10/2013, 2:14 AM

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
Israel news photo: Flash 90

France said on Monday that a Russian proposal to have Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad hand over his chemical weapons arsenal was acceptable under certain conditions, reported Reuters.

These conditions, said  French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, include a UN Security Council resolution, with consequences if Assad failed to comply.

"The proposal of the Russian foreign minister... is worthy of close scrutiny," Fabius said in a statement, adding, "It would be acceptable under at least three conditions."

Fabius said that Assad would have to place his chemical arsenal under international control quickly and allow it to be destroyed, and that the operation should take place after a Security Council resolution.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier on Monday was quick to jump on the bandwagon following comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who told a press conference in London that Assad could avoid a strike on his country by giving up "every single bit" of his chemical weapons arsenal to the international community within a week.

Lavrov then called on Assad’s regime to give up its chemical weapons stockpile as a way of avoiding military intervention by Western states.

In talks with his counterpart, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, Lavrov proposed that Syria's chemical weapons stockpile be placed under "international supervision," following which they would be destroyed.

Kerry later clarified, however, that his comments about Syria were rhetorical and not a proposal.

A senior U.S. official told reporters that Kerry made the clarification to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Kerry, according to the official, also voiced "serious skepticism" when Lavrov offered to explore the idea, saying that the United States would take a look at any serious proposal, but this could not be a reason to slow the White House's efforts to secure congressional authorization to use force against Syria.

Muallem had apparently welcomed Lavrov’s initiative, praising Russia for "attempting to prevent American aggression against our people".

Assad has denied there is any evidence that his regime used chemical weapons and suggested that if attacked its own allies would respond with force of their own.