Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a yet-to-be-televised interview that Russian diplomatic efforts persuaded him to cede control of his country’s chemical weapons stockpile to the international community.
The Guardian reports that Assad’s statement is believed to be the first public acknowledgment of the weapons cache. “ ‘Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision,’ the news agency Interfax reported, quoting the state-run Rossiya-24 channel’s yet-to-be-aired interview,” the newspaper notes Thursday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the initiative would not succeed unless Washington backs off from its plans to hit Assad with airstrikes, a would-be punishment for a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus last month that U.S. President Barack Obama blames on the Syrian government. Assad has denied responsibility.
In his comment article for the New York Times published on Wednesday, Putin welcomed Obama’s consideration of the Russian-backed plan for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons and said his relationship with the US president was marked by “growing trust”. But he warned: “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it.
“Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan: ‘You’re either with us or against us.’” Putin said Russia was not aiming to protect the Syrian government but international law.
The White House said on Wednesday it was increasingly confident that its Kremlin partners were acting in good faith by “putting their prestige on the line”.
“We have seen more co-operation from Russia in the last two days than we have heard in the last two years,” said the White House spokesman Jay Carney.