Syria asks UN to join chemical arms treaty: Spokesman

Syria asks UN to join chemical arms treaty: Spokesman

UNITED NATIONS / LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Syria asks UN to join chemical arms treaty: Spokesman

In this Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by the Local Comity of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a member of a U.N. investigation team takes samples from the ground in the Damascus countryside of Zamalka. AP photo

The United Nations on Sept. 12 received documents from the Syrian government seeking to join the international convention banning chemical weapons, a spokesman said.

President Bashar al-Assad's government will not, however, immediately join the 1993 convention which bans the production and stockpiling of the arms, said U.N. Spokesman Farhan Haq.

The United States and its allies accused al-Assad's government of staging an August 21 attack with sarin gas near Damascus in which hundreds died.

In a bid to head off a threatened western military strike, Russia has proposed a plan to put Syria's chemical arsenal under international control. Syria said it will join the international convention as part of the plan.

"In the past few hours we have received a document from the government of Syria which is being translated," said Haq, adding that it was "an accession document concerning the chemical weapons convention." According to U.N. experts, accession is where a country accepts the terms of a treaty and normally has the same legal effect as ratification.

Haq said it would be "the first step" to becoming a full member of the convention and it would take "a period of days" before Syria formally joins the convention.

Syria chemical arms destruction 'immensely difficult': IISS

Meanwhile, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said Sept. 12 destroying Syria's chemical weapons under a Russian plan would be "immensely difficult" and may do little to end the conflict.

Russia and Iran would have to play a role in dismantling the chemical arms stockpiled by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in a process that would take years, said experts from the London-based think-tank.

"There has never been a situation where the international community has attempted to secure, seize and destroy weapons of mass destruction during an ongoing conflict," IISS proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick told a news conference at the launch of the group's annual review of world affairs.

"The best case was in Iraq and even there it took many months to assemble teams and years to destroy the arsenal. In Libya, it has been many years and still not all the mustard gas has been destroyed," he said.

"So obviously it's immensely difficult. The U.S. Department of Defense has estimated that 75,000 troops would be required to secure the chemical weapons" in Syria.

Moscow and Washington were holding high-stakes talks on Sept. 12 on Russia's plan for Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons in order to avoid air strikes threatened by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Al-Assad confirmed in a Russian TV interview Thursday that Syria would hand over its chemical weapons.