Syrian Foreign Minister Tells UN Al-Qaeda Was Behind Chemical Weapons Use
October 1, 2013
James Bays / Al Jazeera & GagRule.com & Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & RT News
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told the United Nations today that Damascus is fully committed to cooperating on chemical weapons. He also insisted that evidence suggests sarin gas attacks were perpetrated by Al Qaeda forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also insisted that there is every reason to believe that the use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb in August was staged by insurgent forces to create a "provocation" that could be blamed on Syria's leaders.
Assad Deputy Blames Al-Qaeda for Chemical Weapons Use
James Bays / Al Jazeera
UNITED NATIONS -- Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told the United Nations today that Damascus is fully committed to cooperating on chemical weapons. He also insisted that evidence suggests sarin gas attacks were perpetrated by Al Qaeda forces.
Syrian FM to UN:
'Terrorists from 83 Countries Fighting in Syria'
UNITED NATIONS (September 30, 2013) -- The Syrian government is fighting against "terrorist groups from 83 countries" as part of its "constitutional right" to protect the country's people, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told the UN General Assembly in New York.
In his speech to the UN Assembly, Muallem on Monday dismissed the definition of the Syrian conflict as a civil war, saying that the Syrian government is engaged in a "war against terrorism that recognizes no values, nor justice, nor equality, and disregards any rights or laws."
"Confronting this terror in my country requires the international community to act in accordance with relevant resolutions on countering terrorism, particularly the UNSC resolution No. 1373 of 2001," he said.
The Syrian Foreign Minister said that "terrorists from more than 83 countries are engaged in the killing of our people and our army under the appeal of global Takfiri jihad."
Terrorist groups, including those linked to Al-Qaeda, who are violating Syrian people's human rights "on a daily basis," he stressed. Any Syrians who do not share the extremist ideology risk being "killed, slaughtered," with the women also taken as "captives on the basis of perverted concepts of religion that have nothing to do with Islam."
'Foreign Countries Supply
Rebels with Chemical Agents'
"We are the ones who were targeted by poisonous gases in Khan Al-Assal, near Aleppo," Muallem asserted, saying that Syria asked the UN inspectors to include in its mandate the ability to determine who used chemical weapons, but that it was omitted due to pressure from the US, the UK and France.
Syria had "waited for five months" for the UN chemical inspectors to arrive, and even before the completion of their work "certain states began beating the drums of war," Muallem said.
He added that Syria was committed to fully implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and cooperate closely with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Syria's top diplomat went on to question whether those countries "supplying terrorists" with weapons would "abide by their legal commitments," saying there "remains the challenge" that they would not do so.
Muallem then accused "regional and Western countries that are well known to all of us" of supplying chemical agents to "terrorists who used poisonous gases" in Syria.
Syria calls for "necessary and prompt measures to compel those well-known countries that finance, arm, train and provide a safe haven and passage for terrorists coming from different countries of the world," Muallem said.
'Geneva-2 Talks Should
Start without Preconditions'
At the same time, Muallem called on the United States, as well as European and other countries, "to refrain from adopting immoral, unilateral economic measures that contradict the rules of international law and the principles of free trade."
He called on the US to stop "all unilateral coercive measures" imposed on Syria, Venezuela, Belarus, Iran and North Korea, as well to lift the economic blockade of Cuba.
Syria has "repeatedly announced that she embraces a political solution of its crisis," Muallem said, saying that now it is time for "those who claim to support" such a solution "to stop all hostile practices and policies against Syria, and to head to Geneva without preconditions."
President Assad's government has said it is ready to take part in a so-called "Geneva-2" peace conference -- UN-backed talks with the participation of the Syrian government, the Syrian opposition, Russia, the US and other regional players -- called to implement the Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012.
However, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), which has been proposed to represent the opposition, demanded that Assad would not be part of a transitional government discussed at the talks -- a precondition Damascus rejects.
Despite SNC President Ahmad Jarba's recent letter to the UN saying that the coalition "reaffirms its willingness" to take part in the Geneva-2 conference, the UN and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is still "having trouble gathering the opposition" in Geneva, Syrian FM Muallem said in an interview with Sky News Arabia on Saturday.
Syrian FM Accuses US,
France of Blocking Chemical Weapons Probe
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 30, 2013) -- Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem made his address to the UN General Assembly today, and naturally much of the speech centered on the ongoing civil war, pushing the idea that the harsh violence is the result of rebels who "eat human hearts."
What Moallem is mentioning is a real thing, as a video in May showed a rebel commander eating the heart of a slain Alawite, and promising to do so to the rest of the nation's religious minority. The video was loudly defended by some rebel factions, though it was disavowed by others.
During the address, Moallem also faulted the UN chemical weapons probe, accusing the United States and France of blocking its completion to avoid implicating the rebels in the attack.
Moallem is just the latest to complain about the UN probe, which stopped short of attempting to assign any blame for the attack and simply confirmed that a chemical attack occurred on August 21.
The US has said it was "obviously" the Assad government's doing, while Russia has insisted it had evidence that it was the rebels who launched the strike. The UN tried to avoid controversy by splitting the difference and just leaving responsibility out of the report.
Putin -- Grounds to Believe Syria
Chemical Attack Was Smart Provocation
(September 20, 2013) -- Russia has every reason to believe that the use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb in August was an adroit and smart provocation, President Vladimir Putin has said.
"We have every grounds to believe that it was a provocation. Of course, it was adroit and smart, but, at the same time, primitive in terms of technical performance. They took an old Soviet-made missile, which was taken out of service in the Syrian army long ago. It was most important to have 'made in the USSR' written [on the missile]," Putin said at the Valday discussion forum on Thursday.
The Russian president pointed out that the August 21st attack in Damascus was not the first time chemical weapons had been used in Syria. "But why haven't other cases been investigated?" he asked.
The chemical weapon attack must be thoroughly investigated and those behind it must be identified, Putin told the Valday Club meeting in Russia's Novgorod Region.
"No matter how difficult it might be, but if in the end we manage to answer the question… as to who committed that crime – and that was certainly a crime – the next step will follow. Then, together with our colleagues from the United Nations Security Council we will have to define the level of responsibility of those who committed the crime," Putin said.
He stressed that measures like military strikes cannot solve every international issue, while should also be brought to the UNSC rather than discussed in the US Congress.
"This would be a strike on the world order, not Syria," the Russian leader said.
Putin also said that he cannot be 100 percent certain that the Syrian government will completely fulfill earlier reached agreements on dismantling the republic's chemical weapons. However, the latest developments have given signs for hope.
"Will it be possible to accomplish it all? I cannot be 100 percent sure about it. But everything we have seen so far gives us confidence that this will be done," he told journalists and experts.
Earlier this month, Russia and the United States reached a deal on a framework that will see the destruction or removal of Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014. That came after Moscow suggested that Damascus should put its chemical weapons arsenal under international control and the Syrian government accepted the proposal.
The republic also agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention which bans the production and the use of such arms.
Speaking at the Valday gathering, Putin noted that Syria not only agreed to sign the international convention, but announced it already considers itself a party to the treaty.
"These are practical steps that the Syrian government has already made," Putin said.
The United Nations confirmed last Saturday that it had received all the necessary documents from Syria for joining the chemical weapons convention and that Syria would become a member from October 14.
Russia's proposal for Syria was voiced as the Congress was readying itself to vote on President Barack Obama's plan to launch a limited military strike against Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack in August.
The US blamed the country's government for the incident. The decision was put on hold after a suggestion from Moscow, which was discussed in detail by Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.
Putin dismissed allegations by some political analysts at the Valday Club that Obama's acceptance of the Russian proposal on Syria was a face-saving move.
"It was not about saving anyone's face," he said. "[Obama's] decision was based on real analysis of the situation. And I am very glad that our positions on the issue have matched," Putin added.
Putin also reiterated that Russia is pursuing no special interests in Syria which would prompt Moscow to preserve the Assad regime.
He said that any attempt to interfere in the conflict by supporting one of the sides would bring imbalance. When the crisis began over two years ago, it immediately started getting support from abroad, he said.
"How did terrorist groups like Al-Nusra appear there? Even the State Department admits that Al-Qaeda's branches are fighting [in Syria]," Putin observed.
The Russian leader is frustrated that Western states have no idea what they would do if, after their interference in the ongoing war, extremists came to power in Syria.
"Would they drive them away with a newspaper?" Putin said.
No Plans To Destroy Syrian
Chemical Arms on Russian Soil
Russia has no current plans to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile on its own territory under the deal reached between Moscow and Washington in Geneva, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said earlier on Thursday.
"A decision needs to be taken on this," Shoigu told the Interfax agency when he commented on the matter. "We have factories for the destruction of chemical weapons, but there is a big difference between 'ready' and 'willing' to."
The announcement was welcomed by ecologists.
"It's good news. The elimination of Syrian chemical weapons on Russian territory could pose serious risks for the environment and people," Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of the Ecodefense organization, said.
Ivan Blokov, the head of Greenpeace's Russian branch, added that the dismantling of Syrian chemical arms in Russia would not be reasonable, since the transportation of such arms may be even more dangerous. He suggested that the chemical weapons should be destroyed on Syrian soil.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said earlier he was committed to the chemical weapons agreement and vowed to hand over the country's chemical arms for destruction. The plan will cost around $1 billion and take about a year to complete, he added.
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