Russia Tells Syria To Hand Over Chemical Weapons

Syria’s foreign minister reportedly said he welcomes the idea.

Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on Syria to put its chemical weapons under “international control” in a bid to avoid U.S. military strikes.

He said he had passed the proposal to Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moualem, who is currently in Moscow.

“We don’t know if Syria will agree to this or not,” Lavrov said during a hastily called press conference in Moscow. “But if putting the chemical weapons under international control helps avoid strikes then we will quickly start working with Damascus.”

Speaking in London earlier on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the possibility of Assad handing over his chemical weapons.

Assad “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week,” he said during a press conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. “But he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done, obviously.”

Kerry’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, later told CNN that Kerry was “making a rhetorical argument.” His point “was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago,” she said.

Update - Sept. 9, 12:05 p.m., EDT:

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem has told reporters that Syria welcomes Russia’s proposal, according to Reuters.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said Syria’s reaction is “a big step forward” but warned against it being a “distraction tactic.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated Monday that the world must react if Syria used chemical weapons.

“Two and a half years of conflict in Syria have produced only embarrassing paralysis in the Security Council,” Ban said.

Samples taken by U.N. investigators in the suburbs of Damascus are still being processed in European labs.

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