Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Russia Scrambles for a Way out of Syria Strikes

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Russia Scrambles for a Way out of Syria Strikes

Article excerpt

Byline: David Lucas

RUSSIA says it will push Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. The surprise announcement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came a few hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Syrian president Bashar Assad could resolve the crisis by surrendering control of "every single bit" of his arsenal to the international community by the end of the week.

Mr Kerry added that he thought Assad "isn't about to do it," but Mr Lavrov, who just ended a round of talks in Moscow with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem, said that Moscow would try to convince the Syrians.

"If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus," Mr Lavrov said. "We are calling on the Syrian leadership to not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on its subsequent destruction and fully joining the treaty on prohibition of chemical weapons," he said.

Mr Lavrov said that he has already handed over the proposal to Mr al-Moallem and expects a "quick, and, hopefully, positive answer."

His statement followed media reports alleging that Russian president Vladimir Putin, who discussed Syria with president Barack Obama during the G20 summit in St Petersburg last week, sought to negotiate a deal that would have Assad hand over control of chemical weapons.

Speaking earlier, Mr Lavrov denied that Russia was trying to sponsor any deal "behind the back of the Syrian people."

The Russian move comes as Mr Obama, who has blamed Assad for killing hundreds of his own people in a chemical attack last month, is pressing for a limited strike against the Syrian government. Mr Lavrov and Mr al-Moallem said after their talks that UN chemical weapons experts should complete their probe and present their findings to the UN Security Council. …

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