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Friday, October 28, 2016

GENEVA (AFP) – Moscow and Washington begin crucial talks Thursday on Russia’s plan for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons, after President Vladimir Putin made a personal plea to the American people to reject military action.

In talks reminiscent of Cold War-era summits, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet in Geneva to pore over Moscow’s plans to neutralize Syria’s chemical arsenal.

Russia’s shock announcement this week of a plan for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons up-ended U.S. plans for military action in response to an alleged chemical attack last month by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

President Barack Obama backed away from a threat to launch airstrikes against the regime, but the United States and main backer France have warned that military action is not off the table.

Revealing details of the proposal for the first time Thursday, Russian daily Kommersant said Moscow had given Washington a four-step plan for the weapons handover.

Quoting a Russian diplomatic source, Kommersant said the plan would see Damascus join the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), declare the locations of its chemical arms, allow OPCW inspectors access and finally arrange for destruction of the arsenal.

Syria’s opposition has denounced the plan as a delaying tactic, warning it will only lead to more deaths in a conflict that has already killed more than 110,000 people since March 2011.

The commander of the Free Syrian Army, Selim Idriss, said in a video posted on YouTube that the rebels categorically rejected the Russian plan.

Idriss told world powers they should not “be satisfied only by removing the chemical weapon, which is the tool of a crime, but judge the author of the crime before the International Criminal Court.”

Ahead of the talks in Geneva, Putin took the unusual step of penning a commentary in the New York Times warning that unilateral U.S. military action could unleash chaos.

Appealing directly to U.S. voters and policy-makers over Obama’s head, Putin wrote: “A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism.

“It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance,” Putin said.

Drawing on a passage in Obama’s Tuesday night address that said the United States has an “exceptional” role to play, Putin said it was wrong for any power to presume a unique leadership role.

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” he wrote.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Only time will tell what Putin is really up to with Assad. The fact remains that Assad is the leader of a cruel and vicious regime that violated human rights. The world knows you punish a dictator who believes he can violated human rights just because he is the most powerful man in that country. Hitler took the coward’s way out before he could be hauled before the world court. Assad should not be allowed to get away with the gassing of Syrians in Damascus. Do that and everything the men who fought in WWII and stopped the extermination of the Jews is for naught.

    • ram1020

      There were “good guys” and “bad guys” in WWII. We wound up becoming allied with one of the “bad guys” (Russia) in order to get rid of the worse guy, Hitler.

      What is at stake in Syria? One side is a dictator, the other side are radical Islamist. Is the use of chemical weapons by Assad (the Europeans have increasing doubt that he was involved) worse than the beheadings and other atrocities committed by the other side? Which of these “bad” people presents a greater risk to the US?

      The Russians are acting rationally and in their own self interest, which is what governments owe their people. They have large areas of Islamist interest in the ex-SSRs that, if they are empowered by success in Syria, they could be a larger threat to the Russian people. Russians also have strategic bases in Syria. These would be at risk with the rise of an Islamist government in Syria.

      If you feel that Assad should be tried for war crimes, then you, like the Germans suggested, should support having this addressed by the ICC rather than with bombs. This would allow the truth to come out, and punishment given without killing more people and upsetting the balance of power in the region.

    • idamag

      If the UN decides that Assad was the one who ordered the chemical attack, then Assad will be indicted. He may live in relative peace in his own country, but will be arrested if he leaves Syria. His actions will be monitored very closely. Is it so hard to believe the leader of a country would not want to bankrupt the country and have thousands of his people killed? The people, of this country, are gun shy after being lied into a war we could not afford and the loss of lives. Many of those who survived have physical and mental disabilities. This shoot first and ask questions later mentality will cause us enemies throughout the world.

  • silence dogood

    There are several “useful idiots” with their hands on this situation.