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Syria: What the World Thinks

Syrian agreement to a Russian plan to cede its chemical weapons to the international community has been met with cautious optimism.
By Adam Ross
First Publish: 9/10/2013, 10:03 PM

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
AFP file

Today's announcement from Syria that it accepts a Russian deal to hand its chemical weapons over to the international community to stymie the threat of a US led strike has been met by a met by a largely cautious response by major players on the world stage.

The Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muellem made the announcement after a meeting in Moscow with the Russian parliament:

"Yesterday (Monday) we held a round of very productive negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and he put forward an initiative regarding chemical weapons. Already in the evening we accepted Russia's initiative."

While the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying Moscow was working to put together a road-map for the plan, the news was met by cautious optimism by voices in the United States.

As the Barack Obama made plans to take the Russian plan to the U.N Security Council for discussion, in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron hummed a similar tune of cautious optimism welcoming the development but arguing that the Russian plan should be "tested out properly" to be certain it was not merely a "delaying tactic" on the part of the Assad regime.  In particular he called for  "a proper timetable, process and consequences if it's not done". Adding if the plan was a success "it could achieve the goal of getting rid of chemical weapons"

The fears of  a smokescreen to buy Bashar al-Assad time were echoed by U.S. Secretary of State who said the United States is willing to wait, but added, "but we are not waiting for long." Referring to upcoming to discussions on the plan at the United Nations Kerry added: "The Security Council can't be allowed to become a debating society."

France, which has positioned itself as the strongest voice of support for U.S. led military action on Syria, was keen to keep the option on the table for a strike on the Assad regime, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urging that a violation of the resolution to be tabled at the U.N Security Council would carry "very serious consequences."  He added it was the intention of the French government to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack that killed hundreds on August 21.

Meanwhile AFP reported that the Arab League had added its support to the plan, restating both its condemnation of the use of chemical weapons and its opposition to a military strike.

China was another country that welcomed the Russian proposal. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei welcomed the plan saying "if it helps ameliorate the current tense situation in Syria and is beneficial to maintaining peace and stability in Syria and the region, and is beneficial to a political resolution, the international community ought to give it positive consideration."

In Israel, the voices were more sober. President Shimon Peres has stated his opinion that any negotiations with an "untrustworthy" Syria would be tough going.