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Assad Cites Russian Influence In Handover Plan; Kerry, Lavrov Meet

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov are to meet September 12 in Geneva. (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov are to meet September 12 in Geneva. (file photo)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said Damascus will in the next couple of days send documents required for his country to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the world's anti-chemical-weapons body.

In an interview with Russian television Rossia 24 on September 12, Assad said he expected Syria will start handing over information on its chemical-weapons stockpile to international monitors one month after Damascus joins the CWC.

However, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Geneva ahead of a first round of talks on Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reacted with skepticism to Assad's announcement.

"I have seen reports that the Syrian regime has suggested that as part of the standard process they ought to have 30 days to submit data on their chemical-weapons stockpile," Kerry said.

"We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this moment because of the way the regime has behaved, because not only the existence of these weapons, but they have been used. And the words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough."

Lavrov said the implementation of the plan will make "unnecessary" any military strike against Damascus.

"We consider that the solution to this problem makes any strike on Syria unnecessary and are convinced that our American partners, as President [Barack] Obama said, strongly prefer a peaceful way to resolve the problem of chemical weapons in Syria," Lavrov said beside Kerry.

Earlier, in his interview with Russian television, Assad expressed his lack of trust in the United States and said the handover process of Syria's chemical-weapons arsenal should be overseen by Moscow.

"But this is not a one-sided mechanism. The most important role in this process belongs to the Russian state," Assad said. "We don't have trust in the U.S. and we don't have contact with it. Russia is the only country that can fulfill this role now."

Separately, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on September 12 that the United Nations had already received a document from Syria that is a first step toward joining the CWC. Haq said the document "is being translated."

Kerry and Lavrov are scheduled to continue their Geneva consultations on September 13. Meanwhile, President Obama, speaking in Washington, expressed hope the meetings can "yield a concrete result."

"I am hopeful that the discussions that Secretary Kerry has with Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as some of the other players in this can yield a concrete result and I know that he is going to be working very hard over the next several days to see what the possibilities are there," Obama said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned in an opinion piece in "The New York Times" that any U.S. military strike on Syria could upend world order and "unleash a new wave of terrorism."

Putin said a military strike could "undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS