A Free Syrian Army fighter watches after setting tyres and other objects on fire to provide cover from snipers loyal to President Bashar Al Assad, in Aleppo’s Salaheddine district.
DAMASCUS: Syria is committed to handing over its chemical weapons, President Bashar Al Assad said, as major powers inched closer yesterday to a UN resolution enshrining a Russian-US deal.
Assad told Venezuelan television station Telesur in an interview broadcast on Wednesday that he saw “no obstacles” to the deal under which Damascus will relinquish its chemical arms.
Hours later, UN experts left their hotel in Damascus for an unannounced location as they resumed investigations of around 14 incidents in which chemical weapons are alleged to have been used.
Assad told Telesur that his government was committed to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which it signed as part of the US-Russian agreement on the destruction of its chemical arsenal.
“Syria is generally committed to all the agreements that it signs,” he said in the interview, published in full by state news agency SANA yesterday.
He said Damascus had begun to send the required details of its chemical arsenal to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is overseeing the deal, and that OPCW inspectors were expected in Syria.
“Experts (from the OPCW) will come to Syria in the coming period to look into the status of these weapons,” he said.
“As the Syrian government, there are no serious obstacles.
“But there is always the possibility that the terrorists will obstruct the work of the experts by preventing them from accessing certain places.”
Assad’s Syrian regime labels those fighting against it “terrorists.”
Syria agreed to turn over its chemical arsenal under a deal thrashed out following an August 21 sarin attack in the suburbs of Damascus that killed hundreds of people.
Meanwhile, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council made progress on a resolution enshrining the chemical weapons deal, agreeing on the “main points” of a text.
A diplomat said it could result in a resolution that allows for a later vote on sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if Damascus fails to honour the Russia-US plan.
A senior State Department official said: “We’re making progress but we’re not done yet.”
And a Russian diplomat said, without giving details, that “discussions were not finished on certain essential points.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi agreed yesterday on the need for a binding UN Security Council resolution on Syria, a US official said.
But it was unclear whether Beijing would throw its weight behind the language of a resolution currently being drafted.
Russian and US envoys are currently fine-tuning the resolution which both sides want to bring to the Security Council.
But they appear to have hit a hurdle on what kind of sanctions would be slapped on Syria if it violates the resolution.
In other developments, an Iraqi woman was killed and three others wounded yesterday when a mortar round hit Baghdad’s consulate in Damascus, a diplomat said.
He said no diplomatic staff were hurt in the attack.
In northern Syria, rebels and Al Qaeda-linked fighters clashed with Kurds yesterday, activists said.
At least 15 fighters have been killed in two days of clashes around Atma on the border with Turkey’s Hatay province, activists said.
The fighting pits Syrian Kurds, alarmed by what they see as Islamist encroachment in northern Syria, against Arab rebels who suspect the Kurds of seeking secession. Moderate Free Syrian Army rebels fought in Atma alongside the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant.