A nurse works with a Syrian man wounded in the violence in Syria in the intensive care unit of the Israeli Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, northern Israel. More than 90 Syrians have received life-saving treatment in the hospital since March 2013.
UNITED NATIONS: Russian objections to a tough UN Security Council resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons are holding up an international plan to destroy President Bashar Al Assad’s banned poison arms, diplomats said yesterday.
With world leaders gathering at the UN General Assembly in New York, the deadlock is a new blow to international efforts to halt the 30-month-old conflict.
Russia and the United States agreed a disarmament plan to avert a US military strike on Syria after a chemical weapon attack in Damascus on August 21 in which hundreds of people died.
The two governments have sent a blueprint of what would be one of the biggest disarmament missions ever staged to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), diplomats said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has demanded a “strong” Security Council resolution to enforce the plan. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accuses the West of using “blackmail” over the plan to get Security Council approval for possible military action.
“The details of how to destroy the weapons are basically agreed, but everything is held up by the enforcement — and that is between Russia and America at the Security Council,” a UN diplomat said.
Diplomats at the OPCW in The Hague confirmed that the chemical watchdog’s executive council could not meet to agree the plan until the Security Council decides how to make Assad stick to the measures.
“An OPCW meeting this week now looks unlikely. This will have to be sorted out by their foreign ministers and presidents,” the UN diplomat said.
Kerry and Lavrov are to meet in New York today.
Without an accord between the two, the OPCW executive cannot meet and that would push back any Security Council resolution to give legal enforcement to the plan.
“The delays are holding up the start of disarmament and the deadline they have set for mid-2014 is already very tight,” added a second diplomat.
Assad has criticised the United States for threatening to attack Syria over its chemical weapons programme, saying it is finding “excuses for war”, China’s state television said yesterday.
US President Barack Obama has warned that he is prepared to attack Syria, even without a UN mandate, if Assad reneges on a US-Russia deal to put Syria’s chemical arms stockpiles under international control.
“If the US wants to find excuses for war, it will find them as it has never stopped war,” Assad said in an interview with China’s state television, CCTV, in the Syrian capital.
“As long as the US intends to continue exerting its hegemony over other countries, we will all keep high alert,” Assad said, according to a transcript of his translated remarks from CCTV.
“With or without the Syrian crisis, we will always be on alert against some Western countries’ intention to override the UN Charter and the international laws,” he said.
Earlier, an article on the CCTV website quoted Assad as saying: “I am not concerned. Since its independence, Syria has been committed to all the treaties it has signed. We will honour everything that we have agreed to do.
“And more importantly, I want to say, by submitting the draft to the UN Security Council, or by urging the US and Russia to agree on a deal, the US, France, and Britain are just trying to make themselves winners in a war against a Syria which is their imaginary enemy.”
Assad blamed rebels battling to overthrow him for the August 21 chemical attack, saying it made no sense for his forces to use chemical weapons when they were gaining the upper hand and while UN chemical inspectors were staying in central Damascus.
“We also have confessions made by the terrorists who transported the materials from the neighbouring countries,” he said In the interview.
Assad said gunmen could hinder the access of inspectors to sites where the weapons were stored.
“We know that these terrorists are obeying the orders of other countries and these countries do drive these terrorists to commit acts that could get the Syrian government blamed for hindering this agreement,” he said.