Free Syrian Army fighters take a shooting position in Sheikh Khodr area in Aleppo yesterday.
BEIRUT: Syria’s government hailed as a “victory” a Russian-brokered deal that has averted US strikes, while President Barack Obama defended a chemical weapons pact that the rebels fear has bolstered their enemy in the civil war.
As President Bashar Al Assad’s warplanes and artillery hit rebel suburbs of the capital again yesterday, minister Ali Haidar told Moscow’s RIA news agency: “These agreements ... are a victory for Syria, achieved thanks to our Russian friends.”
Though not close to Assad, Ali was the first Syrian official to react to Saturday’s deal struck in Geneva by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Bridging an angry East-West rift over Syria, they agreed to back a nine-month UN programme to destroy Assad’s chemical arsenal.
Kerry responded to widespread scepticism about the feasibility of the plan by saying in Israel that it had “the full ability” to remove all Syria’s chemical weapons.
The deal has effectively put off the threat of air strikes Obama made after poison gas killed hundreds of Syrian civilians on August 21, although he stressed that force remains an option if Assad reneges — and US forces remain in position.
Obama embraced the disarmament proposal put forward last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin after his plan for US military action hit resistance in Congress. REUTERS