Kerry's chemical weapons 'gaffe' could lead to breakthrough in Syrian crisis

Published September 10th, 2013 - 08:00 GMT
US secretary of State John Kerry addresses a news conference in London. Kerry made a gaffe about Syria handing over their chemical weapons stockpiles, which could inadvertently lead to a breakthrough in the peace talks. (AFP)
US secretary of State John Kerry addresses a news conference in London. Kerry made a gaffe about Syria handing over their chemical weapons stockpiles, which could inadvertently lead to a breakthrough in the peace talks. (AFP)

Russia has requested that Syria places its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control and have them safely destoryed in a bid to avoid US-led military strikes.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the offer was put on the table during talks with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Moallem, who welcomed the suggestion, a BBC report said Tuesday.

The US said it was sceptical of the proposition, but would take a "hard look" at the plan, according to the BBC.

Washington accuses Damascus of war crimes, specifically using chemical agents against the Syrian population in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. The regime categorically denies such accusations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Europe in a bid to rally support for a US-led strike on Syria, inadvertently started the talk of Syria giving up its chemical weapons early on Monday in what critics are calling a "lucky gaffe"

When asked at a news conference on Monday if there was anything Syrian President Bashar Assad could do to prevent the US using military action against it, Kerry replied that Assad could hand over the entire Syrian weapons stockpile within the next week, BBC reported.

Almost immediately, US officials clarified that Kerry was making a "rhetorical argument" rather than a serious offer.

However, following his meet with Moallem later in the day, Lavrov revealed that he had urged his Syrian counterpart to "not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on their subsequent destruction", according to the BBC.

Lavrov said he also advised Moallem that Syria should fully join the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Syrian official told reporters through an interpreter that Syria welcomed the initiative and praised Russia for "attempting to prevent American aggression against our people", according to the BBC.

Kerry and Lavrov spoke on the phone after the Russian proposal was put forward, but US officials sounded a cautious note over the plan, according to the BBC.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, at a press conference following Kerry and Lavrov's phonecall, said the US government would study the proposal but was sceptical over the credibility of the Assad regime.

"In an interview earlier, Assad refused to even acknowledge that he has chemical weapons. Of course, the whole world knows he does," said Carney, according to BBC.


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