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Syria 'chemical weapons' crisis: LIVE UPDATES

Published time: August 27, 2013 10:56
Edited time: October 11, 2013 09:25
Syrian activists inspect the bodies of people they say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region, in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013.(Reuters / Bassam Khabieh)

Syrian activists inspect the bodies of people they say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region, in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013.(Reuters / Bassam Khabieh)

The diplomatic scramble to avert military intervention in Syria continues, as an August 21 gas attack in a Damascus suburb has sparked international efforts to bring the country’s chemical weapons stockpile under control.

Friday, October 11

08:00 GMT: This year's Nobel Peace Prize is set to go to the OPCW, the organization currently tasked with overseeing Syria's chemical weapons arsenal handover to international hands - according to a Norwegian public broadcaster.

03:25 GMT: Nearly two dozen of the commentators who appeared on major media outlets to discuss a possible US military strike on Syria had relationships with contractors and other organizations with a vested interest in the conflict, according to a new report.

Wednesday, October 9

18:00 GMT: The Syrian government has been “quite cooperative” in the early stages of the destruction of its poison gas stockpiles, global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW said, adding that its experts would need to check some 20 weapons sites in the country.

“The cooperation has been quite constructive and I would say the Syrian authorities have been cooperative," Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told reporters in The Hague.  

Tuesday, October 8

21:00 GMT: A second team of inspectors will be sent to Syria to help those already working there to destroy the state’s stockpile of toxic munitions, the global chemical weapons watchdog said. This comes as Damascus releases footage of the first mission at work.     

03:00 GMT: A joint mission of the UN and the OPCW should include some 100 experts deployed both in Damascus and in Cyprus – to provide additional “operational capabilities” – in order to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed. "I propose the establishment of an OPCW - UN Joint Mission to eliminate the chemical weapons program of the Syrian Arab Republic," Ban Ki-moon wrote in a letter to the UN Security Council. 

The mission "will seek to conduct an operation the likes of which, quite simply, have never been tried before," Ban said, in a report to the United Nations Security Council, according to AFP.

Monday, October 7

13:00 GMT: US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has said that Syria's compliance with the chemical weapons handover deal is a "credit to Assad's regime."

Kerry and Russian Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov met on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia on Monday morning. 

"The process has begun in record time and we are appreciative for the Russian co-operation and obviously for the Syrian compliance," Kerry added.

12:45 GMT: People in countries whose governments are not directly involved in the Syrian crisis mostly oppose military intervention against the government of President Bashar Assad, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed. Overall, 52 percent of people surveyed in September favored military intervention and 57 percent were against their own country taking part in such an operation.

The survey was conducted in 15, mostly European countries, but excluded Iran, Russia and China, which are supporting Damascus in the ongoing crisis, as well as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, which are most directly involved in the rebels’ fight against the Syrian government.

In the survey, Argentina was the country most strongly opposed to military intervention in Syria, with 68 percent of people against it. 

Some 36 percent of people surveyed said that Assad’s government was responsible for the use of chemical weapons, the accusation which the US voiced as a reason for a possible strike in Syria. About a quarter believe that both the Syrian army and the opposition used chemical weapons at some point of time, while another quarter said they didn’t know who was behind the attacks.

12:37 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has posted a statement on its website, saying that Syria is being “cooperative” in the operation to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.

"Discussions were held with the Syrian authorities on the disclosure which Syria earlier provided to the OPCW on its chemical weapons program," the statement said, adding that the talks were “constructive.”

Saturday, October 5

6:00 GMT: The Syrian government has gone beyond its pledge and handed over additional information on its chemical weapons program to international experts. UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the new data had been received by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the OPCW countries should expect an update by Tuesday.

Thursday, October 3

18:00 GMT: The initial United Nations report on how Syria will dispose of its chemical weapons will be presented on October 7, says Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin.

"The chemical weapons experts are already in place in Syria, and have started work" Churkin told Rossiya-24, a Russian news channel.

"The UN Secretary General's report on October 7 will indicate what role the United Nations will play in the carrying out of the chemical weapons resolution passed by the Security Council."

16:26 GMT: An international team of chemical weapons experts who arrived in Damascus on Tuesday has been making "encouraging initial progress" according to the UN. It is working towards the full elimination of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles  - a task they believe to be achievable by mid-2014.

"Documents handed over yesterday by the Syrian Government look promising, according to team members, but further analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, will be necessary and some more questions remain to be answered," said the UN statement.

Tuesday, October 1

14:50 GMT: The Israeli ambassador to Moscow, Dorit Golender, has said that her country backs the plan to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control. “Israel has welcomed the US-Russia plan. But results are determined by deeds,” Golender told RIA Novosti.

12:26 GMT:
The team of twenty international OPCW inspectors who are tasked with the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria have entered the country from Lebanon over the Masnaa border

 A United Nations vehicle is seen at the Masnaa border crossing on the Lebanon-Syria border (AFP Photo)

11:30 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has expressed doubts that the West will be successful in getting the Syrian opposition to take part in the ‘Geneva-2’ peace conference due to be held mid-November.

“Regarding opposition representation – this remains to be settled. Until recently we have been relying on our Western partners who pledged to push the opposition to the negotiations table and we hoped they would manage it quickly. But so far they have not succeeded. And I am not sure they will by mid-November” Lavrov told reporters at a press conference.

11:00 GMT: Russian representatives will work alongside the OPCW inspectors in Syria and take active part in the operation to dismantle chemical weapons in the country, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters.

Monday, September 30

20:43 GMT: Work on the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria will begin October 1, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky confirmed. “The beginning of this joint operation is scheduled for tomorrow,” he stated at a briefing in New York. Nesirky added that a group of UN experts have returned from Syria and said their report will be completed by the end of October.

20:19 GMT: Turkey’s parliament will debate the motion to authorize military strikes on Syria this Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told Turkish media.

15:05 GMT: China says that it will send its experts to oversee the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. 

13:45 GMT: China has condemned an attack on its embassy in Damascus, in which one embassy staff was injured. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has also demanded that “all parties in Syria strictly adhere to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and ensure the safety of diplomatic organizations and their members in a proper way.” 

Damage is pictured inside the courtyard of the China embassy after a mortar shell hit the building, in Damascus September 30, 2013. (Reuters)

Earlier on Monday, Chinese media reported that an area adjacent to the country’s embassy in Damascus was shelled by mortar rounds, and that one of the shells exploded in the embassy’s yard, damaging one building and injuring at least one member of staff. The diplomatic mission temporarily suspended its work, but no evacuation of staff was reported.

11:31 GMT: The team of UN experts investigating use of chemical weapons in Syrian civil war left Damascus on Monday after completing their six-day mission to investigate several cases of alleged chemical weapons use in the country. The investigators’ report, on seven separate cases of alleged use of chemical weapons during the Syrian conflict, is due to be presented sometime in October.

09:38 GMT: France was ready to launch air strikes against Syria’s chemical weapons facilities on Sept. 1, Le Nouvel Observateur reported, but the country’s president, Francois Hollande, had to call the operation off after President Barack Obama decided to seek approval from the US Congress for a military operation against Syria. France’s Rafale fighter jets had planned to launch missiles while flying the Mediterranean, without entering Syrian airspace, the news magazine reported.

08:56 GMT: The Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, which advises the European Union on human rights issues, plans to hold an urgent debate on Syria on Oct. 3 in Strasbourg, France.

Russia’s representative to the assembly, Duma Foreign Affairs committee chairman Aleksey Pushkov, told journalists that the assembly should pass a resolution on the conflict.

“Syria is the key issue in international politics and there is no doubt that PACE should have a resolution,” Pushkov said, adding that there had been a “serious evolution” in the country. “While two years ago, the prevailing view was that there was a democratic revolution in Syria and people are fighting tyranny, now opinions have changed toward Russia’s stance on this issue,”  Pushkov said.

Sunday, September 29

21:13 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have seen a "positive start" to their work in Syria, Itar-Tass reports, citing an OPCW brief in the Hague. "So far our interaction with the Syrians has been very businesslike and very efficient," said an OPCW official. Both parties' intention is to develop a relationship based on mutual trust, saying that the OPCW team of experts have no reason to believe that the Syrian government is trying to hide its chemical weapons. The OPCW brief also said that no unannounced inspections of chemical weapons sites are planned, as that would facilitate mistrust between the two sides.

Saturday, September 28

20:07 GMT: Damascus will not accept any transition plan that excludes President Bashar Assad, Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem told AP Saturday on the sideline of the UN General Assembly. "For the Syrian people, Bashar Assad is the elected president until mid-2014, when presidential elections will be held," al Moallem said. Earlier the foreign minister told RT that the Syrian civil war could end in weeks if the West and Gulf States stopped supporting the insurgents on the ground. 

18:50 GMT: Russia reached its aim of making sure professionals from the international chemical weapons watchdog are the main actors regarding the UN resolution on Syria, and that there are no loopholes for military action, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov told Russia’s Channel One News.

Lavrov admitted the Russian-American compromise on the UNSC resolution “did not come easy.” But the Russian side has “achieved its goal” in that the resolution on Syria, supporting another document by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), “remains within the framework of the Geneva Communiqué.”

00:17: GMT: The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution outlining the details of taking under international control and ultimately destroying Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

The target date for a new peace conference in Geneva was set for mid-November. However, the Syrian opposition should be represented at the Geneva peace talks in a single delegation, the Secretary-General said.

The adopted resolution calls for consequences if inspectors decide that Syria has failed to fulfill its obligations.

Friday, September 27

22:50 GMT: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has adopted a decision on Syria chemical arms by consensus, the UK ambassador to the UN said.


22:30 GMT: The meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is taking place several hours later than planned. This could push back the timeframe of the Security Council vote on a draft resolution even further.

The UK ambassador to the UN has announced that the meeting of OPCW in the Hague has been delayed until delayed until 00:30 local time or 18:30pm EDT. The OPCW Executive Council was earlier planning to meet at 22:00 Friday.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet at 20:00 EDT for a ministerial level vote on a draft resolution on Syrian chemical weapons.

Thursday, September 26

17:10 GMT: France has stated that progress is being made over a UN Security Council resolution on Syria's chemical weapons.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that "France's demands have been satisfied at this point," and that talks have "progressed overall," following Wednesday's meeting of five powers. However, there remain "some issues to clarify" before a resolution is adopted, he told reporters. 

17:00 GMT: Martin Nesirky, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Martin Ban Ki-Moon said that the format of a meeting on Syria involving Ban Ki-moon, Lavrov and Kerry is broadening and will naturally involve United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. “We already said that a trilateral meeting with Minister Lavrov, Secretary of State Kerry, as well as the Secretary General, and naturally Mr. Brahimi, would take place. This format is now expanding,” he said.

15:55 GMT: UN chemical arms experts have started their mission the day after returning to Syria. For security reasons, their schedule and the sites they will visit have not being disclosed. According to UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, the UN experts’ agenda will depend on the situation. Syria initially agreed to allow UN experts to visit three different locations. The teams will focus on examining 14 alleged attacks when chemical weapons or chemical agents were used.

Wednesday, September 25

08:54 GMT: UN chemical experts have once again returned to Damascus, AFP says.

Tuesday, September 24

17:15 GMT: People are rallying in support of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad in the city of Latakia.

17:00 GMT: The solution to the Syrian conflict must be a political one, as too much time has been wasted in solving the country’s crisis, French President Francois Hollande said in his speech at the opening day of the UN General Assembly.

But the French president reiterated that the UN Security Council resolution on Syria should include the application of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the use of military force.

16:44 GMT:
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has approved a draft resolution on Syria, a diplomatic source told the RIA Novosti news agency. The source added that the organization did not have any outstanding issues with the proposal, and added that the UN Security Council would draft a resolution only after the OPCW presented its version.

14:00 GMT: Military victory in Syria is “an illusion,” with “political settlement” being the only way out of the crisis in the country, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he addressed world leaders in his opening speech at the General Assembly.  

The UN chief has called on Syrian President Bashar Assad, the country’s opposition and “all those in this hall with influence over them” to work immediately to arrange a second Geneva peace conference aimed at reaching a political solution.

13:28 GMT: While concentrating on chemical weapons, the international community mustn’t forget that the flow of conventional weapons to Syria also remains a pressing issue, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said at the opening of the organization’s General Assembly in New York.   

"We can hardly be satisfied with destroying chemical weapons, while a wider war is still destroying Syria. The majority of the deaths in Syria were caused by normal weapons and I call on foreign powers to halt the flow of arms into the country,” he said.

“The Syrian government must commit to its pledges over its chemical weapons arsenal,”
Ban added.

07:30 GMT:
UN chemical weapons inspectors are to return to Syria on Wednesday to continue their mission, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

The experts were sent to investigate several cases of alleged use of chemical weapons, but their work was disrupted by the August 21 attack, which killed an estimated 1,400 people. The team was redirected to the location of the new incident to conduct a probe and produce an intermediate report on it. However, they were expected to continue their initial mission later.

“We are satisfied that our persistent calls for the return of the UN inspectors for an investigation of the previous episodes have finally borne fruit,” the Russian diplomat commented.

Russia criticized the intermediate report presented at the UN last week, which some Western countries took as blaming the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack. Moscow says the evidence is not conclusive and argued that a more comprehensive assessment of the situation would prove that Syrian rebels could have been involved in both this and previous attacks.

Saturday, September 20

09:30 GMT: Russia could change its position on Syria if it is discovered that President Bashar Assad is “cheating”, the head of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov said.

"I’m speaking theoretically and hypothetically, but if it appears certain to us that Assad is cheating, we may change our position,” Ivanov said at the International Institute for Strategic Studies 'Global Strategic Review' conference in Stockholm.

Ivanov also questioned how the world would respond if it turns out that both Damascus and the Syrian opposition had deployed chemical weapons.

“Just imagine what the international community would do then,” he questioned.

Ivanov reiterated that Russia saw no other option than to navigate the ongoing crisis in Syria diplomatically, adding that within a week the full extent of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal would be known.

Friday, September 20

18:10 GMT: The US will thoroughly examine data on Syria’s chemical arsenal, which the government of Bashar Assad passed to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. Syria has already forwarded the OPCW a draft record of its chemical arsenal, she added.


14:29 GMT:
Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, have held telephone consultations on the situation in Syria in view of the agreement to place all the country’s chemical weapons under international supervision. The call was initiated by the American side, the Russian Foreign ministry said.

13:18 GMT:
Damascus has submitted a detailed index of its chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities to the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the group told Reuters on Friday. The OPCW won't release details of what it has received, AP reports. 

On Saturday, Russia and the United States reached a deal on a framework that will see the destruction or removal of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid- 2014. Under the plan, the Assad government had one week to hand over an inventory of its chemical weapons arsenal. Syria is believed to have around 1,000 metric tonnes of chemical agents.

Meanwhile, the OPCW has postponed a meeting on Syria originally set for this Sunday, AFP reports. No new date has been given for the meeting. 

12:40 GMT: RT’s Maria Finoshina, currently in Syria has spoken to Maaloula residents who were forced to flee their predominantly Christian village when it was seized by jihadists. Having found temporary asylum in Damascus, they still live in fear having not overcome the shock of what had happened. They are also worried about the fate of their missing relatives. Very few are ready to speak to journalists as a result.


12:20 GMT: Finland is ready to provide its experts for destroying the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry statement, cited by Itar-Tass news agency.

11:50 GMT: The Syrian government is expected to submit data concerning its chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by September 22, according to the spokesman for the watchdog, Michael Luhan. 

11:20 GMT: Up to 400 Russian citizens could be fighting in Syria now, according to Sergey Smirnov, first deputy head of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

We estimate that around 300-400 people have left Russia for Syria. They will come back and that represents a big threat,” he said.

Thursday, September 19

20:00 GMT: French President Francois Hollande has suggested that Paris could arm Syrian rebels, but do it carefully enough to avoid the weapons falling into the hands of jihadists.

"On delivering weapons, we have always said that we want to control these supplies so that they do indeed go to the Free Syrian Army ... because they represent the Syrian National Coalition that we recognize as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and today they are caught between a hammer and an anvil. The hammer is the air strikes and actions of the Syrian regime and the anvil is radical Islam," Hollande said as cited by Reuters. 

French President Francois Hollande (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)

The French president highlighted Russia supplying arms to the Syrian government as one of the reasons for his decision to provide the rebels with arms.

19:26 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the UN Security Council to take action on Syria next week.

"The Security Council must be prepared to act next week," Kerry told reporters. "It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of enforceable action to rid the world of Syria's chemical weapons."

Kerry said that although the UN mission in Syria had no mandate to determine who was behind the Ghouta chemical attack which claimed hundreds of lives in August, the facts provided by inspectors clearly implicate that Bashar Assad’s government is to blame.

18:30 GMT: Christian leaders from the World Council of Churches (WCC) are planning a summit on Syria, similar to the Geneva II negotiations world powers have long been trying to hold.

"There is no military solution to Syria,” the general secretary of the WCC, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, told journalists. "Now is the time to say everyone has failed and there has to be a change and that change has to include all parties and that includes the president [of Syria]."

17:45 GMT: The World Bank has said that the refugee crisis engulfing Lebanon as a result of the Syrian civil war will cost the country $7.5 billion.

17:40 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world's chemical weapons watchdog, will meet Sunday to discuss the Russian-US plan to destroy Syria's arsenal, it said.

17:30 GMT: Bulgaria has asked the EU for aid to help it cope with Syrian refugees, the interior minister said Thursday.  Over 4,000 illegal immigrants, about half of them from Syria, are seeking asylum in Bulgaria and Sofia says its capacity is at breaking point.

17:25 GMT: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he doesn't foresee NATO playing a role in the agreement to destroy Syria's chemical weapons, but said that individual NATO countries may help to implement it.

14:15 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he believes the use of chemical weapons in Damascus on August 21 was a provocation on the part of the Syrian rebels.

We have every grounds to believe that it was a provocation. Of course, it was adroit and clever, but, at the same time, primitive in terms of technical performance. They took an old Soviet-made missile, which was taken out of service in the Syrian army long ago. It was most important to have ‘made in the USSR’ written [on the missile],” Putin said at the Valdai discussion forum on Thursday. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin attending the tenth anniversary meeting of Valdai International Discussion Club in the Novgorod Region, September 19, 2013.(RIA Novosti / Michael Klimentyev)

12:30 GMT: Russia is ready to take part in the transportation and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, according to Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

What awaits us is a huge and serious task to fulfill, and we are only at the beginning of the process,” said Shoigu as cited by Vesti24. “Whatever role we get when it comes to international control [of Syrian chemical weapons] –  be it transportation or destruction – Russia and its military forces are naturally ready to take it on.”

12:15 GMT: An estimated 130 French nationals or immigrants are now fighting in Syria, according to the country’s Interior Minister, Manuel Valls.

It worries me because they could represent a potential threat [to France] upon their return,” Valls said, as cited by France 24.

The Minister specified that the number is bigger than in other recent conflicts in the region, such as Iraq or Afghanistan.

12:00 GMT: Turkey has shut one of its border gates to Syria following fighting, which took place in the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish frontier.  Two rebel groups reportedly confronted each other - an Al-Qaeda affiliated group clashed with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, according to a Turkish official, cited by Reuters.

"The Oncupinar border gate has been closed for security reasons as there is still confusion about what is happening on the Syrian side. All humanitarian assistance that normally goes through the gate has ceased," the official said.

11:25 GMT: Russia is completely ready for the possible evacuation of its citizens from Syria in case it is needed, according to Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, cited by RIA news agency. Seven thousand Russian citizens are currently in Syria. The Minister said he was ordered by President Putin to prepare the evacuation plans.

Wednesday, September 18 

23:58 GMT: The US is working with Syrians to collect evidence to use against President Bashar Assad, who should “absolutely” be tried for crimes against humanity, a top US official on war crimes said.

“Enormous crimes have been committed that can be traced directly to the highest levels of the Syrian regime,” Stephen Rapp, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, told Yahoo News on Wednesday.

Rapp added that the mounting evidence would make prosecution easier than cases “we’ve seen at the international level against a chief of state.”

“Without question, there are credible, very credible allegations of crimes against humanity, murder, rape, mutilation, other crimes,” Rapp said. “And, of course, since we now have a civil war these become war crimes as well.”

Stephen Rapp (AFP Photo/Armin Weigel)

Rapp said that Syrian partners have obtained more than 200,000 pages of documents which are now being analyzed in a special location that the US helped establish in Europe.

“We’re working with Syrian groups, educating them, training them in how to find this information, identifying it, and measuring shell holes, and determining what direction the shells came from, other things like that ” Rapp said.

Rapp acknowledged the hurdles surrounding a possible criminal case, including reservations from Russia. In the meantime, the accumulation of evidence will go on.

“Our preference is to work with Syrians, with people in the region, with international players and work toward establishing some kind of hybrid, or mixed court,” he said. “That will take time, [but] it could be begun even before there was an end to the conflict.”

Tuesday, September 17 

16:50 GMT: In response to Russia’s criticism of the recent report on the Aug.21 chemical weapon attack, the UN says it is “indisputable” and “thoroughly objective”. 

"The findings in that report are indisputable," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. "They speak for themselves and this was a thoroughly objective report on that specific incident."

16:42 GMT: NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says military options should remain "on the table" in negotiations with Syria.

Rasmussen said he supports the recent US-Russian agreement under which the Assad regime says it will give up its chemical weapons arsenal.

"I would expect the Syrian regime to fully comply with the demands of the international community and in the case of non-compliance we will need a very firm international response," NATO chief said after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron in London.

Rasmussen stressed that it is "crucial that the UN Security Council expeditiously adopts a firm resolution that can constitute the framework for a swift, secure and verifiable elimination of all chemical weapons in Syria"

"I do believe that the credible threat of military action was the reason why diplomacy got a chance and I think in order to keep momentum in the diplomatic and political process the military option should still be on the table," he told reporters.

12:47 GMT: The chief UN chemical weapons inspector Ake Sellstrom says his experts will return to Syria "within weeks" to complete the investigation that was interrupted by August 21 attack in Damascus suburb. The team will evaluate "allegations of chemical weapons use from both sides, but perhaps mainly from the Syrian government’s side."

Sellstrom said he does not see a need for more investigations of the August 21 attacks, but if the team “receives any additional information it will be included next time we report," he added.

12:30 GMT: President Assad thanked Russia for helping Syria confront a "savage attack", AFP reported. 

President Bashar al-Assad (AFP/SANA)

12:25 GMT: Syrian government says it is sure the UN will not vote for the resolution on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, regulating the use of military force on behalf of the council, AFP reported citing Faisal Mekdad, the deputy foreign minister of Syria.

“I think it’s a lie that Western countries use. We think this will never be used. There is no justification for that,” Mekdad said.

21:53 GMT: Syria has handed over new evidence to Russia that the chemical weapons were used by the armed opposition, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov told RIA Novosti. “That is really true. Just now we were given evidence. We need to analyze it.”

21:33 GMT: Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that Russia is disappointed that the UN inspectors’ findings are “politicized” and “biased” in nature, adding that without the complete picture of what is happening in Syria, the conclusions can only be described as one-sided.

"We were disappointed to say the least, with the approach adopted by the UN and the UN inspectors, who were in Syria, which was very selective and incomplete, without regard to the circumstances, and was compiled without the collection of materials in the other three sites,” Ryabkov said. 

20:55 GMT: In response to a question from a journalist on whether the chemical weapons deal gives Syrian President Bashar Assad job security, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that any government in place would be in charge of seeing it to the end. 

“Any individual, any government that is in place, whether that’s a transitional government, whatever it may be, would be in charge of implementing this. And that is the body that would work through this,” she said.

20:40 GMT: The draft UN Security Council resolution on chemical weapons in Syria was presented at the meeting of the five permanent UN members, RIA Novosti cited a UN source as saying. "France, Great Britain and the United States introduced a draft resolution today at a meeting of the five in New York," the source said, adding that Russia and China will be studying the resolution.

20:36 GMT: Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that the first round of talks with Syrian foreign minister Walid Moualem in Damascus was constructive. There are hopes for more positive discussions on Wednesday, Ryabkov said. 

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov

19:39 GMT: Syria’s army has confirmed that its military helicopter, which was shot down by Turkish forces on September 16, violated the neighboring country’s air space.

The helicopter was on a reconnaissance mission, inspecting the infiltration of terrorists across the border, and mistakenly entered Turkish airspace, the military said in a statement released by Syria’s SANA news agency.  

The harsh reaction from Turkish side – particularly, the fact that the helicopter, not tasked with any fighting mission, was downed as it headed back to Syria – reveals the real intentions of Erdogan's government, which is seeking escalation at the Syrian border, the statement added.

18:50 GMT:
Russia urges the interested parties not to hurry with throwing unsubstantiated accusations of chemical weapons use against the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said.

“Simplistic and groundless accusations against the Syrian authorities, which, in fact, remove all responsibility from the opposition, are childish and inappropriate,” he stressed. “As it’s thorough and, more importantly, professional establishment of cases of chemical weapons use in Syria, for which the fresh UN inspectors’ report stands for.”

18:43 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has held a phone conversation with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, discussing the details of the US-Russia deal, which calls for the Syrian government’s chemical arsenal to be placed under international supervision and subsequently destroyed.

"We hope that our British partners would get seriously involved in the implementation” of the Syrian chemical weapons accord, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said.

18:00 GMT:
The UNSC resolution on Syrian chemical weapons should be binding and guarantee that the chemical arsenal will be destroyed in accordance with the agreement reached between the US and Russia in Geneva, Ban Ki-moon said. 

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube by the Local Committee of Arbeen on August 21, 2013 allegedly shows Syrians covering a mass grave containing bodies of victims that Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta and Zamalka, on the outskirts of Damascus. (AFP Photo)

17:09 GMT: The UN report on the Syrian chemical attack on August 21 does not show that Assad forces used sarin gas, the UN Secretary General said. The statement came in response to Western countries, which said the report proves the chemical weapon attack was perpetrated by government forces.   

“If you read the report, you will understand that there are no conclusions on where those rockets were fired from,” Ban said.

16:36 GMT: The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China are expected to meet in New York to discuss a draft resolution on destroying Syria's chemical arsenal based on a US-Russian agreement, Reuters reports citing a US official.

"Today, the P5 members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia, China) will meet to discuss the joint P3 (US, UK, France) draft Security Council Resolution on Syria's chemical weapons program," Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the US mission to the UN, said in an email.

16:34 GMT: While Russia's deputy foreign minister is negotiating with the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moualem, there are media reports emerging saying that the Syrian government passed its allies evidence that proves that the rebels were behind the attack in Ghouta on August 21.

However, RT’s Maria Finoshina, who is currently at the meeting, says there are no details about the report. 

Video: /files/news/20/3c/f0/00/original_english_international_2013-09-17_20_01_10.asf

14:41 GMT: Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, will arrive in the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday to hold talks with the country’s foreign minister, Walid Moualem, Russia's Foreign Ministry told RT.

14:18 GMT:
The implementation of the US-Russia deal on chemical weapons in Syria has topped the agenda of the Moscow meeting between the Russian President’s plenipotentiary for Middle East issues, Mikhail Bogdanov, and the Syrian ambassador to the country, Riyadh Haddad.

The officials also shared the view that a political settlement to the crisis in the Middle eastern state must be reached as soon as possible based on the Geneva Communique, which calls for a peace conference on Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Monday, September 16

19:06 GMT: Russia expects the draft UNSC resolution on Syrian chemical weapons, which is now being prepared by France, Britain and the US, will be based on agreements reached at the meeting between Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"I hope, this draft resolution will be based on what was agreed in Geneva and will not contain elements they [France, Britain and the US] sometimes introduce in public statements,” Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said. 

18:21 GMT: The inspection team concluded that the munitions linked to one of the impact sites, called Site 1 in the report, matched types of the Soviet-made M14 artillery rocket, “with either an original or improvised warhead." The UN experts suggested that based on the “orientation and impact craters” and other damage in the area, the rockets were fired from an unspecified area to the northwest. 

18:36 GMT: After the presentation of the UN report, Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said that she was convinced, based on the technical details from the inspectors, the weapons belonged to forces loyal to President Assad's regime.

“Now the mandate of the UN chemical weapons team was, as you well know, not to investigate capability. But the technical details of the UN report make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack,
” Power told reporters at a news conference. 

16:23 GMT: The UN Secretary General said the conclusions drawn in the report are “overwhelming and indisputable”.
“The facts speak for themselves,” he added. 

Ban called the attack in Ghouta “the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988.”

15:35 GMT: Turkish warplanes have shot down a Syrian helicopter after it crossed 2 km into Turkish air space, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, has admitted. 

"It was continuously warned by our air defense but as the violation continued, it fell on Syrian soil at 2:25 pm [1125 GMT], having been hit by missiles from our planes," he told assembled journalists.

Arinc said that the fate of the pilots was unclear. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based NGO, claimed that one of the men has been captured by anti-Assad rebels.

12:50 GMT: The head of the UN panel on war crimes in Syria claims that 14 cases of chemical attacks are currently being investigated.

12:40 GMT: The US, UK and France are pushing for more aid to the Syrian rebels, while also pressing President Assad to deliver on his promise of handing the chemical weapons arsenal over to international hands.

But they still argue that no end to the conflict is in sight, unless Assad leaves.

08:44 GMT: France, Britain and the US will press for a strong UN Security Council resolution on Syrian chemical weapons, the French president's office says. They want the document to include detailed and binding dates for the planned dismantling of the stockpile.

01:23 GMT: A Russian newspaper Kommersant has published a response from Rep. Steve Israel to President Vladimir Putin's editorial in the New York Times last week that stirred a lot of controversy among US officials while generally getting support among the American public.

In his letter Israel says that if diplomacy fails the US should act to prevent the spread of chemical weapons “without boots on the ground and in a limited, focused and swift way.” He argues that “Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons repeatedly” and that “we don't want Syria’s chemical weapons to fall into the wrong hands -including some elements of the rebel forces in Syria.”

In regards to Putin’s comment on American exceptionalism, Israel wrote:

“If your leaders are serious about truly creating a regimen to control and contain chemical weapons in Syria under international supervision in a transparent, verifiable and effective way, then we will be able to add this to the latest example of exceptional achievements partnered by our two nations.”

Sunday, September 15

19:28 GMT: On Monday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will present a report by the UN team on the chemical weapons in Syria.

Ban earlier revealed the report will give "overwhelming" confirmation that arms of mass destruction were used in an attack near Damascus on August 21.

"Therefore, I'm sure that there will be surely the process of accountability when everything is over," he said.

However, the UN team is not expected to say who was responsible for the attack as it was only tasked to either confirm or deny the use of chemical agents.

19:15 GMT: Iran has information that it’s the rebels, not the government forces, who used chemical weapon in Syria, according to Iran’s new Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.  

“The chemical weapons are still in the possession of extremists and terrorists in Syria, which threatens not only Syria,” Zariff told Lebanese TV channel, Al-Mayadin.

Iran condemns the use of weapons of mass destruction – no matter, who resorted to using it and who suffered from it, the Foreign Minister added.

19:02 GMT:
French President Francois Hollande has said military action against the Assad regime in Syria is still an option. France insists the UNSC resolution on Syria should include sanctions in case Damascus failed to hand over it chemical weapons to international control. However, Hollande did not specify what sanctions.  

“There should be the possibility of using military force, otherwise the resolution will not have power,” Hollande said.

Speaking on French prime-time television, he said resolution could be voted by the end of the week.

13:10 GMT: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed the country’s hope that the Russian-US deal for bringing Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under international control would result in its “complete destruction”, Reuters reports.

"We hope the understandings reached between the United States and Russia regarding the Syrian chemical weapons will yield results," the PM said, speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the Israeli soldiers killed in the 1973 Middle East war.

"These understandings will be judged by their result - the complete destruction of all of the chemical weapons stockpiles that the Syrian regime has used against its own people," Netanyahu added.

12:26 GMT: The Arab League welcomed Saturday’s agreement between the US and Russia to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014 in exchange for military non-intervention, AFP reports.

07:27 GMT: Syrian opposition group National Coaltion of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces demanded that the international community forced the Syrian Army to stop using its air superiority, after Damascus agreed to dispose of its chemical weapons stockpile.

“The prohibition of chemical weapons, the use of which has left more than 1,400 civilians dead, [should] be extended to the use of ballistic missiles and aircraft against urban areas,” the coalition said in a statement.

Comments (342)

 

Andrej Kanaš 24.10.2013 14:44

I'm not sure why Putin didn't get Nobel Peace Prize?

 

David Wong 23.09.2013 15:07

Most of us know it was most likely the rebels/jhabbat Al-Nusra who did it because their side lies and squirms the most when challenged, the question is where to go from here.

 

David Wong 23.09.2013 14:57

The Ghouta chemical attack could've been carried out by pro-rebel elements-maybe high ranking officers in Assad's army who might have access to the chemical weapons. Al-Nusra may be in contact with them. This way the rebels could have instigated it but it looks like it came from the Syrian army. Why would government forces launch an attack at 3 in the morning when visibility would be zero and only target civilians? or did the perpetrators want cover of darkness to hide their actions and make sure there were no witnesses. At the start of the attempted coup d'etat some of Assad's army joined the rebels so it's possible.

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