Syria, Sept 22: Assad Declares His Chemical Weapons — And Now?

LATEST: Videos from Aleppo — Destruction Inside Ummayad Mosque, Street Markets

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SUMMARY: Syria met the Saturday deadline, set under a US-Russia framework agreement, to disclose information about its chemical weapons stocks.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will now review the information about the program, which is believed to have about 1,000 tons of toxins.

The OPCW will issue a report on the information, but what happens next inside Syria is unclear. The OPCW wants to inspect facilities before handover and destruction of the stocks, but disagreement persists over whether there will be enforcement if Damascus does not comply.

There is also a lack of clarity over the timetable. The US has said it expects full destruction of the chemical material by mid-2014, but Russia has not committed to that date. President Assad has said it will take a year for the process to be completed.

Some diplomats had said they hoped a Security Council resolution would be in place in time for the UN’s General Assembly meeting on Tuesday, but that now looks unlikely.


Latest Updates, From Top to Bottom

Videos from Aleppo: Destruction Inside Ummayad Mosque, Street Market

The Ummayad Mosque, built from the 11th to 14th centuries, after its devastation during more than year of fighting in Aleppo:

And life goes on in street markets:

Russia FM Accuses US of “Blackmail” Over Chemical Weapons Plan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has declared, “Our American partners are beginning to blackmail us” over the plan to inspect and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

Lavrov said the US, Britain and France — “blinded” by their objective of regime change — were threatening to stop work on the process unless Russia supports a United Nations resolution authorising military action in the event of non-compliance by Damascus.

The Foreign Minister said Russia could contribute a small detachment of observers to the inspection teams, with
Arab states and Turkey as part of the monitoring.

Video: 15 Insurgent Groups Near Damascus Unite as “4th Division”

Opposition Coalition: We Will Attend Peace Conference…If There is Transitional Government

The President of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, has said the Coalition is ready to attend an international “peace” conference in Geneva if it aims to establish a transitional government with full powers.

The US and Russia proposed the conference in April, but the opposition has been demanding a commitment that President Assad will step down from power.

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Jarba said the coalition “reaffirms its willingness to engage in a future Geneva Conference” but “all parties must…agree that the purpose of the conference will be the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers”.

Jarba also called on the Security Council to include enforcement in any resolution to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons and to take the “necessary measures” to impose a ceasefire and release thousands of activists from prison.

Reuters, which obtained a copy of the letter, does not indicate whether it repeated the condition for an Assad promise that he will give up power in advance of a conference.

Casualties

The Local Coordination Committees claim 80 people were killed on Saturday, including 30 in Hama Province, 13 in Damascus and its suburbs, 13 in Aleppo, and 12 in Daraa Province.

The Violations Documentation Center puts the number of dead at 73,765 since the conflict began in March 2011, an increase of 105 from Saturday. Of the dead, 55,305 are civilians, a rise of 63 from yesterday.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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