Syria Joins Anti-Chemical Weapons Treaty, U.S. Unimpressed
Syria became a full member of the global anti-chemical weapons treaty on Thursday, the country’s envoy to the United Nations said.
The government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad hopes this move will prevent U.S. air strikes.
“Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the [chemical weapons] convention,” Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told reporters in New York after the relevant documents were submitted to the UN.
"With this, the chapter of the so-called chemical weapons should be ended," he added.
Syria was one of only seven countries not to have joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which commits members to completely destroying their stockpiles.
Syria’s move came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, where Lavrov presented his country’s plan of having Syria hand over its stockpile of chemical weapons for monitoring by the international community.
Assad, however, 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 U.S. threats did not influence the decision," Russian news agency Interfax quoted Assad as saying.
The U.S. State Department said Thursday that documents Syria sent to the United Nations on joining the treaty cannot be a substitute for disarmament or a stalling tactic.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that the U.S. option to use military force remains on the table while discussions proceed with Russia on how to remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
Asked about Syria submitting a document to United Nations and seeking to join the agreement, Harf said, “The Chemical Weapons Convention is an important thing ... but that that would not be a substitute for working with us and the Russians to verify and ultimately destroy their stockpile.”
Leading Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai reported on Thursday that the U.S. administration will demand that any agreement made with Syria should commit Assad to step aside, and commit the remaining parties to working towards a cease-fire agreement.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor voiced his pessimism over the Russian initiative through which Syria's Assad regime could comply with chemical weapons treaties as a way of avoiding western military intervention.
Palmor said that the existing 20-year-old Chemical Weapons Convention, which has been proposed as the tool for verifying Syrian compliance, has failed to attract the multilateral support that would allow it to work.
Syria's neighbor Turkey has also voiced its cynicism over the diplomatic initiative. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Bashar al-Assad was buying time and should not be trusted.
"We are doubtful that the promises regarding chemical weapons will be met," Erdogan said Thursday.