Syria conflict: France to seek tough UN resolution on chemical weapons

The Guardian.com – by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris and Julian Borger – Sept 10, 2013

Photo: Laurent Fabius said France would float the resolution as early as Tuesday evening. Photograph: Jacques Brinon/AP

 

France will on Tuesday night propose a resolution to the UN security council aimed at forcing Syria to make public its chemical weapons programme, place it entirely under international control and dismantle it, or face “extremely serious consequences”.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said France had reacted with “interest but also with caution” to the Russian proposal that Syria place its weapons under international control.

Paris, still wary of falling into a trap or “diversionary” tactic, had therefore decided to push immediately for a UN resolution under chapter 7 of the UN charter which would make “concrete” the notion of the Syrian regime opening up its chemical weapons arsenal for inspection and dismantlement, Fabius said.

The French proposal came as the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Moscow and Damascus were working on a plan in consultation with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Ban said he would urge the security council to demand the immediate transfer of Syria’s chemical weapons to internationally controlled sites inside the country where they could be destroyed.

The director general of the OPCW, Ahmet Üzümcü, pointed out that the chemical weapons convention “was based on zero tolerance for chemical weapons”, suggesting a selective approach would not be acceptable.

Syrian state television quoted Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki as saying President Bashar al-Assad’s government backed the initiative, confirming what his foreign minister had earlier told the speaker of the Russian parliament.

“We held a very fruitful round of talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday, and he proposed an initiative relating to chemical weapons. And in the evening we agreed to he Russian initiative,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told the Interfax news agency. He added Syria had agreed because this would “remove grounds for American aggression”.

Keen to regain the initiative on the Syria weapons issue after Moscow’s proposal, France stipulated the five conditions of the resolution that would be put to the 15-nation UN body as early as Tuesday night. Fabius said the resolution would condemn the “chemical massacre” committed on 21 August “by the Syrian regime”.

It would demand that the Syrian regime “shed all light” on its chemical weapons programme without delay, placing it under international control and dismantling it. Syria must put in place a complete procedure to allow full inspections of chemical weapons and must become party to the chemical weapons convention. There would be extremely serious consequences if these obligations were violated.

Finally, “the authors” of the 21 August chemical attacks must face legal sanctions via the international criminal court (ICC).

It was not clear whether Russia would go along with a chapter 7 resolution, as it would open the door to punitive measures possibly including force. Furthermore, Russia and China have continually resisted the Syrian conflict being referred to the ICC for investigations of war crimes.

Asked if the UN initiative meant the option of military force was now officially off the agenda, Fabius said Paris would explore the possibility of full Syrian chemical weapons control in good faith but with caution, and “all options are still on the table”.

He said: “The Syrian people have suffered too much” and France was seeking a “firm, precise and verifiable” response to the chemical weapons use.

“From the start, France’s aim has been to limit the chemical weapons threat and protect the Syrian people,” he said.

Fabius said he expected a “nearly immediate” commitment from Syria. He said Russia had information about Damascus’s chemical weapons stockpile, and expressed hope that this time a tough resolution on Syria would not be blocked – an allusion to a string of efforts led by western powers at the UN body in recent months that were blocked by Russia and China.

France, the former colonial power in Syria, has been leading tough talking on the Syrian chemical weapons issue from the start, insisting the regime must be punished…

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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