Assad: U.S. Not Behind Chemicals Decision

In an interview with Russian state TV, Syrian President says Russia alone convinced him to cede his cache of chemical weapons.

Adam Ross,

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

Bashar al-Assad has told Russian state run TV that his decision to hand over his stockpile of chemical weapons for monitoring by the international community has nothing to do with averting a U.S. military strike on his regime.

"Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision," Russian news agency Interfax quoted Assad as saying during an interview with state-run channel Russia 24.

The comments are likely to ruffle feathers in Washington where the administration of Barack Obama has claimed Syrian agreement to the Russian brokered deal was due to pressure exerted by the threat of a U.S. strike against the country.

As news broke that Syria has accepted the Russia plan earlier this week, White House Spokesman Jay Carney told MSNBC: "We see it as a clear result of the pressure that has been put on Syria by the fact that the president has been moving forward and taking his proposal that we engage in limited strikes against Syria, in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons against a civilian population."

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov focus on thrashing out an agreement over Syria, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported earlier today (Thursday) that the U.S. would demand the Syrian President step aside within the framework of any deal, a clause which Russia is opposed to. 

Adding doubt to the success of any kind of agreement  that would put Syria's estimated 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons out of harms way, Israel's Foreign Ministry Spokesman voiced pessimism over the utility of the existing 20-year-old Chemical Weapons Convention, which has been proposed as the tool for verifying Syrian compliance.

The expectations were equally dismal in neighboring Turkey, where Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Bashar al-Assad was simply buying time and should not be trusted.

"We are doubtful that the promises regarding chemical weapons will be met," Erdogan said Thursday.