Tuesday 24 October 2017

Two-way plan to solve Syrian crisis

British Foreign Secretary William Hague,French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and US Secretary of State John Kerry (AP)
British Foreign Secretary William Hague,French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and US Secretary of State John Kerry (AP)

The West has laid out a two-pronged approach to Syria, calling for enforceable UN standards for destroying its chemical weapons and an international conference to boost the moderate opposition forces.

Top diplomats from the United States, France and Britain stood together to pressure Syrian president Bashar Assad to uphold his end of any deal on securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons. France and the US insisted that a military response to the poison gas attack that killed hundreds remains on the table, and were pressing for a UN resolution reflecting that.

The United Nations Security Council is set in coming days to take up the resolution laying out plans for the agreement brokered by the United States and Russia.

"If Assad fails to comply ... we are all agreed, and that includes Russia, that there will be consequences," US secretary of state John Kerry said ahead of meetings in Paris with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two of the strongest proponents for military action against Assad.

Meanwhile, invitations were going out to the Syrian National Coalition - the main umbrella opposition group - for an international conference in New York timed to coincide with next week's UN General Assembly meeting. Bolstering the Western-backed SNC is just as crucial to Syria's future as Assad's agreement to give up chemical arms, said French foreign minister Laurent Fabius.

"He must understand that there is no military victory, no possible military victory for him," Mr Fabius said. He acknowledged that broad popular support for the rebels has been hampered by fears that Islamic militants are now playing a major role in the uprising.

In briefing the allies, Mr Kerry was pressing for support for the ambitious agreement that averted threatened US military strikes. It calls for an inventory of Syria's chemical weapons programme within one week, with all components out of the country or destroyed by mid-2014.

Those who blame Assad for the chemical attack and supported military strikes say it is up to him to uphold his end of any deal.

Later it emerged that president Barack Obama is clearing the way for the US to send non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition to help them prevent the use or proliferation of chemical weapons. The president's authorisation also allows the US to send chemical weapons-related personal protective equipment to international organisations working in Syria.

It also allows for the transfer of assistance to local health care providers in Syria to help them treat victims of chemical weapons attacks. A senior administration official said the US had already started making plans to send the assistance before a chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21.

Press Association

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