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Syria's War

Breaking news coverage of developments in Syria's War and the broader regional conflict, including allegations of the deadly use of chemical weapons and the international community's response

  • Iran wants to "actively" take part in any new Syria peace conference, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Friday.

    "For Geneva or any other international gathering ... should Iran participate, it will actively accept that invitation and participate for the sake of the Syrian people," Rouhani told a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

    [AFP]
  • A car bomb killed at least 30 people on Friday in the town of Rankus north of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It added that regime forces shelled the area afterwards.

    Rankus, about 18 miles north of Damascus, is a Sunni town that backs the Sunni-dominated opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Local activists called on residents to avoid gathering for fear of additional attacks in the town, which has regularly been the scene of fighting between rebels and regime forces.

    [AFP]


  • Another FSA commander appeared to turn his back on the Syrian National Coalition in a video statement released on September 26. This video was posted to a Facebook page representing Col Ammar al-Wawi. It shows al-Wawi reading a statement rejecting the SNC’s authority. It follow a similar video statement from other rebel brigades released on September 24.

    Al-Wawi says that “the Syrian people demand the simplest rights of freedom and fair democracy”. He declares a “lack of recognition of the National Coalition”.

    [Video via Storyful]
  • Assad to Venezuelan TV: Obama lying to American people

    In a lengthy interview with Venezuelan state television, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired back at U.S. President Barack Obama's Tuesday speech to the U.N. General Assembly, accusing the Obama administration of "lying to the American people" about the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons that has formed the basis for a proposed U.S.-led strike.

    Assad also told Telesur reporter William Parra that he believed the military strike was still a very real threat, despite the U.N. Security Council making progress this week on a resolution that would place Syria's chemical weapons under international supervision, staving off U.S. military intervention.
    "His speech [Tuesday] was more of the same – full of allegations based on fabrications and lies," Assad said, according to a transcript released Thursday by the official Syrian news agency.

    In the interview, Assad detailed for the first time the evidence his government provided to Russia that he alleged implicates the rebels in a March attack that killed roughly 30 people in the Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal.

    The U.S., along with Security Council allies France and Britain, allege that the Syrian government was behind a chemical weapons attack in August that the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people in the Damascus suburbs.

    Assad told Telesur that his Army handed Russia soil samples, blood samples from victims, and pieces from the projectiles used to carry the neurotoxic agent during the attack. Syrian television had previously broadcast apparent confessions from rebels who said they transported chemical agents into Syria.

    Read more.
  • French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he hopes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council will be able to set a date on Friday for so-called Geneva 2 peace talks on the Syrian conflict.

    The five - France, Britain, Russia, China and the United States - are due to meet with UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi later on Friday on the sidelines of the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders.

    "I hope that we will be able to fix a date this evening for Geneva 2," Fabius said.

    [Reuters]
  • A car bomb killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens more on Friday when it exploded in Rankus, a town 30 km north of the Syrian capital Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    Activists in a nearby town said the blast occurred in front of a mosque soon after Friday prayers. They gave a higher death toll of 37 dead and said more than 100 had been wounded.

    One of the activists told Reuters news agency that government forces began shelling the same area soon after the explosion occurred, causing at least one more death.
  • UN experts currently on the ground in Syria will visit seven sites of alleged chemical weapons attacks around the country, the UN has announced.

    The experts aim to prepare a comprehensive report "by late October" that would be "based on a number of allegations... of which seven have been found to warrant investigation," it said in a statement.

    It will complete its work in Syria by Monday, the statement said.
  • The UN Human Rights Council adopted ten texts Friday calling on the Syrian regime to grant "immediate access" to the commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian law in the course of the country's ongoing civil war.

    "Concerning the continuing grave deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Council demanded that the Syrian authorities cooperate fully with the commission of inquiry, including by granting it immediate, full and unfettered access throughout the country," the Council writes. "The Council strongly condemned the continued gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias, as well as any human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed opposition groups. It deplored the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and urged the international community to provide urgent financial support to enable the host countries to respond to the growing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees."

    Read the whole statement here.
  • Russia, US reach 'understanding' on Syria chemical weapons resolution

    Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Russia and the United States have reached an "understanding" on a draft of a United Nations Security Council resolution to deal with Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, after a weeks-long diplomatic impasse over how to internationally confront the use of chemical weapons against Syrians.

    Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., confirmed the agreement via her Twitter account:

    "The draft UNSCR establishes that #Syria's use of CW (chemical weapons) is threat to international peace & security & creates a new norm against the use of CW," her official account said.

    The U.S. and Russia have been at odds for weeks over what to do about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the agreement clears the way for a larger vote from the rest of the Security Council. The full 15-member Council was set to meet in consultations later in the day.

    According to Power's Twitter account, the resolution sets a precedent against the use of chemical weapons, and legally requires Syria to give up its stockpile.

    "This is a breakthrough arrived at through hard-fought diplomacy," a senior State Department official told Al Jazeera. The official called the resolution "binding" and "enforceable," and said that the "failure of the Assad regime to comply will have consequences."

    Read more.
  • Below is the full text of the draft UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. 

    The United States and Russia reached an agreement on the accord Thursday at the UN General Assembly .


    The Security Council,

    PP1. Recalling the Statements of its President of 3 August 2011, 21 March 2012, 5 April 2012, and its resolutions 1540 (2004), 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012),

    PP2. Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,

    PP3. Reaffirming that the proliferation of chemical weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

    PP4. Recalling that the Syrian Arab Republic on 22 November 1968 acceded to the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed at Geneva on 17 June 1925,

    PP5. Noting that on 14 September 2013, Syria deposited with the Secretary-General its instrument of accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (Convention) and declared that it shall comply with its stipulations and observe them faithfully and sincerely, applying the Convention provisionally pending its entry into force for the Syrian Arab Republic,

    PP6. Welcoming the establishment by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic ("the Mission") pursuant to General Assembly resolution 42/37 C (1987) of 30 November 1987, and reaffirmed by resolution 620 (1988) of 26 August 1988, and expressing appreciation for the work of the Mission,

    PP7. Acknowledging the report of 16 September 2013(S/2013/553) by the Mission, underscoring the need for the Mission to fulfill its mandate, and emphasizing that future credible allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic should be investigated,

    PP8. Deeply outraged by the use of chemical weapons on 21 August 2013 in Rif Damascus, as concluded in the Mission's report, condemning the killing of civilians that resulted from it, affirming that the use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious violation of international law, and stressing that those responsible for any use of chemical weapons must be held accountable,

    PP9. Recalling the obligation under resolution 1540 (2004)that all States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, and their means of delivery,

    PP10. Welcoming the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons dated 14 September 2013, in Geneva, between the Russian Federation and the United States of America (S/2013/565), with a view to ensuring the destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic's chemical weapons program in the soonest and safest manner, and expressing its commitment to the immediate international control over chemical weapons and their components in the Syrian Arab Republic,

    PP11. Welcoming the decision of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of establishing special procedures for the expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic's chemical weapons program and stringent verification thereof, and expressing its determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic's chemical weapons program according to the timetable contained in the OPCW Executive Council decision of,

    PP12. Stressing that the only solution to the current crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process based on the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, and emphasising the need to convene the international conference on Syria as soon as possible,

    PP13. Determining that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

    PP14. Underscoring that Member States are obligated under Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations to accept and carry out the Council's decisions,

    1. Determines that the use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a threat to international peace and security;

    2. Condemns in the strongest terms any use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular the attack on 21 August 2013, in violation of international law;

    3. Endorses the decision of the OPCW Executive Council, which contains special procedures for the expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic's chemical weapons program and stringent verification thereof and calls for its full implementation in the most expedient and safest manner;

    4. Decides that the Syrian Arab Republic shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to other States or non-State actors;

    5. Underscores that no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer chemical weapons;

    6. Decides that the Syrian Arab Republic shall comply with all aspects of the decision of the OPCW Executive Council of (Annex I);

    7. Decides that the Syrian Arab Republic shall cooperate fully with the OPCW and the United Nations, including by complying with their relevant recommendations, by accepting personnel designated by the OPCW or the United Nations, by providing for and ensuring the security of activities undertaken by these personnel, by providing these personnel with immediate and unfettered access to and the right to inspect, in discharging their functions, any and all sites, and by allowing immediate and unfettered access to individuals that the OPCW has grounds to believe to be of importance for the purpose of its mandate, and decides that all parties in Syria shall cooperate fully in this regard;

    8. Decides to authorize an advance team of United Nations personnel to provide early assistance to OPCW activities in Syria, requests the Director-General of the OPCW and the Secretary-General to closely cooperate in the implementation of the Executive Council decision of and this resolution, including through their operational activities on the ground, and further requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Director-General of the OPCW and, where appropriate, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, to submit to the Council within 10 days of the adoption of this resolution recommendations regarding the role of the United Nations in eliminating the Syrian Arab Republic's chemical weapons program;

    9. Notes that the Syrian Arab Republic is a party to the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, decides that OPCW-designated personnel undertaking activities provided for in this resolution or the decision of the OPCW Executive Council of shall enjoy the privileges and immunities contained in the Verification Annex, Part II(B) of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and calls on the Syrian Arab Republic to conclude modalities agreements with the United Nations and the OPCW;

    10. Encourages Member States to provide support, including personnel, technical expertise, information, equipment, and financial and other resources and assistance, in coordination with the Director-General of the OPCW and the Secretary-General, to enable the OPCW and the United Nations to implement the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic's chemical weapons program, and decides to authorize Member States to acquire, control, transport, transfer and destroy chemical weapons identified by the Director-General of the OPCW, consistent with the objective of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to ensure the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic's chemical weapons program in the soonest and safest manner;

    11. Urges all Syrian parties and interested Member States with relevant capabilities to work closely together and with the OPCW and the United Nations to arrange for the security of the monitoring and destruction mission, recognizing the primary responsibility of the Syrian government in this regard;

    12. Decides to review on a regular basis the implementation in the Syrian Arab Republic of the decision of the OPCW Executive Council and this resolution, and requests the Director-General of the OPCW to report to the Security Council, through the Secretary-General, who shall include relevant information on United Nations activities related to the implementation of this resolution, within 30 days and every month thereafter, and requests further the Director-General of the OPCW and the Secretary-General to report in a coordinated manner, as needed, to the Security Council, non-compliance with this resolution or the OPCW Executive Council decision of;

    13. Reaffirms its readiness to consider promptly any reports of the OPCW under Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which provides for the referral of cases of non-compliance to the United Nations Security Council;

    14. Decides that Member States shall inform immediately the Security Council of any violation of resolution 1540 (2004), including acquisition by non-State actors of chemical weapons, their means of delivery and related materials in order to take necessary measures therefore;

    Accountability

    15. Expresses its strong conviction that those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic should be held accountable;

    Political transition

    16. Endorses fully the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 (Annex II), which sets out a number of key steps beginning with the establishment of a transitional governing body exercising full executive powers, which could include members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent;

    17. Calls for the convening, as soon as possible, of an international conference on Syria to implement the Geneva Communiqué, and calls upon all Syrian parties to engage seriously and constructively at the Geneva Conference on Syria, and underscores that they should be fully representative of the Syrian people and committed to the implementation of the Geneva Communiqué and to the achievement of stability and reconciliation;

    Non-Proliferation

    18. Reaffirms that all Member States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, and calls upon all Member States, in particular Member States neighbouring the Syrian Arab Republic, to report any violations of this paragraph to the Security Council immediately;

    19. Demands that non-State actors not develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer, or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, and calls upon all Member States, in particular Member States neighbouring the Syrian Arab Republic, to report any actions inconsistent with this paragraph to the Security Council immediately;

    20. Decides that all Member States shall prohibit the procurement of chemical weapons, related equipment, goods and technology or assistance from the Syrian Arab Republic by their nationals, or using their flagged vessels or aircraft, whether or not originating in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic;

    Compliance

    21. Decides, in the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic, to impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter;

    22. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

    Britain's UN ambassador says key powers reach accord on UN resolution on Syria weapons.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tells Reuters that Russia has reached an understanding with the US on the UN Security Council's Syria resolution. 


  • A senior State Department official praised the UN accord on Syria's chemical weapons as "a breakthrough arrived at through hard-fought diplomacy." 

    Just two weeks ago, no one thought this was in the vicinity of possible. After close consultation with the P3, the Russians have agreed to support a strong, binding and enforceable resolution that unites the pressure and focus of the international community on the Syrian regime to ensure the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons. 
     
    This is historic and unprecedented because it puts oversight of the Assad regime's compliance under international control and it's the first UNSCR to declare that the use of chemical weapons is a threat to peace and security.   Equally as important, it makes absolutely clear that failure of the Assad regime to comply will have consequences. Later this evening there will be a full consultation with the UNSC to discuss text.


  • Britain's UN ambassador says key powers reach accord on UN resolution on Syria weapons.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tells Reuters that Russia has reached an understanding with the US on the UN Security Council's Syria resolution.

    The Security Council will hold closed-door consultations on the Syria chemical weapons draft resolution at 8pm ET, according to the French UN mission
  • The head of the opposition Syrian Supreme Military Council cut short a visit to France on Thursday and said he would head to Syria for talks with rebel brigades that broke with the Western-backed coalition.

    General Salim Idris, who commands the coalition's military wing known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), said he would travel to Syria on Friday to meet fighters from the 13 groups which rejected on Tuesday the authority of the Turkey-based coalition.

    The rebel groups, including at least three considered to be under the FSA umbrella, called on Tuesday for the rebel forces to be reorganised under an Islamic framework and to be run only by groups fighting inside Syria.

    "We should deal wisely with their statement. I returned from France so as to follow up with the field commanders and work toward unifying all the ranks," Idriss told Reuters by telephone after arriving in Istanbul.

    FSA spokesman Louay Meqdad said Idriss hoped to solve the grievances of the dissident rebels, who have long been wary of accepting leadership by figures who have spent much of Syria's two-and-a-half-year civil war outside the country.

    "He will meet the brigades that rejected the coalition who are losing hope," Meqdad said. "The coalition maybe were not connected to the ground but now they will communicate and try to resolve this."

    Rebel brigades battling President Bashar Al-Assad are fragmented and increasingly fighting internal conflicts.

    [Reuters]




  • Activists in Homs reported intense strikes against the city by pro-government forces on September 26. The city recently entered the 500th day of a siege, according to report by The Independent. The videos here show strikes against locations described as Homs.

    The first video shows a jet on a bombing run over a location described as Homs.

    The second video, below, shows a series of explosions at 0’45", 1’33" and 2’06". The uploader says they are as a result of rocket strikes.

    All of these videos have been vetted by Storyful. Al Jazeera America cannot independently confirm them.
  • The United States and China are in strong agreement on the need for a mandatory and binding UN Security Council resolution on eradicating Syria's chemical arsenal, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

    Both countries also agree that the 15-member Security Council should act quickly on such a resolution, the official told reporters after Secretary of State John Kerry met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

    [Reuters]
  • Russia says it is ready to help ensure security for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

    Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirming that Russia would help guard the facilities where the weapons are being destroyed.

    Ryabkov, speaking Thursday during an arms exhibition in Nizhny Tagil, said he hoped that other members of the Collective Security Treaty OrganiSation would also participate. The organization includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

    UN inspectors returned to Syria on Wednesday to continue investigating three incidents of suspected chemical weapons use this year.

    [AP]
  • Speaking in the UN General Assembly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Russia has enough evidence to assert that homemade sarin was used on August 21 in a chemical attack near Damascus, according to a report by state-owned new outlet Russia Today

    "The reports by the journalists who visited the sites, who talked to the combatants, combatants telling the journalists that they were given some unusual rockets and munitions by some foreign country and they didn’t know how to use them," Lavrov told RT. "You have also the evidence from the nuns serving in a monastery nearby who visited the site. You can read the evidence and the assessments by the chemical weapons experts who say that the images shown do not correspond to a real situation if chemical weapons were used. And we also know about an open letter sent to President Obama by former operatives of the CIA and the Pentagon saying that the assertion that it was the government that used the chemical weapons was a fake."

    Lavrov emphasized that Russia stands fully committed to implementing the Geneva framework of September 14, a bilateral agreement with the United States to move forward with the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles under the Chemical Weapons Organization’s supervision.
  • Russia's deputy foreign minister says agreement on a UN Security Council resolution requiring Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons stockpiles is likely in the next two days.

    Gennady Gatilov told The Associated Press that the text of the resolution will include a reference to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which includes military and nonmilitary actions to promote peace and security.

    But he stressed that there will not be an automatic trigger for Chapter 7 measures, which means another Security Council resolution will be required if Syria fails to comply.

    The U.S. and Russia had been at odds on how to enforce the resolution.

    Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the AP he expects the remaining differences to be worked out "in the next few days".

    [AP]
  • US official says making progress on UN #Syria chemical arms draft resolution, but "we're not done yet" - @reuters
  • Russian delegation spokesman says suggestion that deal reached on #Syria UN resolution is "wishful thinking" by Western powers - @reuters
  • Secretary of State John Kerry met with Ahmad Jarba, president of the Syrian opposition coalition, at the UNGA on Tuesday
  • Syrian opposition coalition president Ahmad Al-Jarba met with UN rep for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi today for the first time. #UNGA


  • European Union foreign police chief Catherine Ashton met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in New York on Tuesday, September 24. The two were attending the United Nations General Assembly and had a bilateral meeting to discuss EU and Russian relations, as well as foreign policy concerns, such as the Middle East, Iran and the situation in Syria.
  • U.N. vehicles carrying a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team arrive in Damascus September 25, 2013. U.N. chemical weapons inspectors returned to Syria on Wednesday to continue investigating allegations of chemical weapons use in the country's two-and-a-half-year conflict. A convoy of five United Nations cars carrying at least eight members of the team arrived at a central Damascus hotel, witnesses said. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri)

  • Several Syrian rebel groups, including al-Qaeda-linked faction, said they reject the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition.

    In a joint statement, 13 rebel groups led by the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front slammed the Turkey- based Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represents their interests.

    The statement reflects the lack of unity between the political opposition, based in exile, and the disparate rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria's civil war, which has killed over 100,000 people so far.

    It also highlights the growing irrelevance of the Coalition and its military arm headed by Gen. Salim Idris, who heads the Supreme Military Council supported by the West, amid increasing radicalization on the ground in Syria.

    The rebel groups' statement called on all those trying to topple Assad's government to unite under a "clear Islamic framework" - an apparent reference to the al-Qaeda faction's aspirations to create an Islamic state in Syria.

    It said the rebels do "not recognise" any future government formed outside Syria, insisting that forces fighting on the ground should be represented by "those who suffered and took part in the sacrifices".

    [AP]
  • A team of UN chemical weapons experts arrived in the Syrian capital Damascus, an AFP news agency correspondent said, ahead of new investigations into the use of the banned arms.

    The team, led by chief expert Ake Sellstrom, flew into the Lebanese capital Beirut on Wednesday morning, before continuing by road to Damascus.

    The group is expected to examine the alleged use of chemical weapons some 14 times in Syria's 30-month conflict. It went to Syria last month and concluded in a report presented on
    September 16 that banned chemical weapons had been used on a wide scale.

    There was clear evidence that sarin gas was used in an attack in the Eastern Ghouta neighbourhood near Damascus on August 21, the report said.

    Sellstrom pointed out that the report was only an interim document, and that other allegations needed to be looked into.

    "There have been other accusations presented to the UN secretary general, dating back to March, against both sides" in the conflict, he told AFP earlier this month.

    There were "13, 14 accusations" that "have to be investigated". He said the team hoped to be able to present a final report addressing all of the accusations "possibly by the end of October"


  • Watch: French President Francois Hollande addresses the United Nations General Assembly.
  • French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday the UN Security Council had to make a threat of eventual "coercive" measures against Syria if it does not hand over its chemical weapons.

    Hollande told the UN General Assembly that a resolution being discussed must "foresee coercive measures" under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and for those responsible for chemical weapon attacks in Syria to be "held accountable in the justice system."
  • Turkish President Abdullah Gul addressed the UN in New York on Tuesday, and said the international community was responsible for ending the conflict in Syria.

    "This conflict has evolved into a real threat to regional peace and security," he said. "Any recurrence of the proxy wars of the Cold-War era will plunge Syria into further chaos."

    Gul said Turkey welcomed a US-Russian agreement to remove Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, but said the world must not allow Assad's government to "avoid responsibility for its other crimes.""This conflict neither began with the use of chemical weapons, nor will it end with an agreement to eliminate them," he added.

    He criticized what he called "balance-of-power politics" that had helped to prolong the war, and called for a strategy led by world powers and Syria's neighbors to end the civil war.

    "In short, we cannot and shall not leave the Syrian people to their fate," he said. "The burden of ending Syria's plight now rests on the shoulders of the international community. Strong words of support must now be matched by real deeds." [Reuters]
  • The United Nations team investigating the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria will return to the country Wednesday to complete its investigation, spokesperson said today. Here's the UN statement:

    "Formally known as the Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, the team – led by Swedish scientist Dr. Åke Sellström – was established by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in March of this year.

    The team, assisted by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), visited the country last month and found “clear and convincing evidence” that Sarin gas was used in an incident that occurred on 21 August in the Ghouta area on the outskirts of Damascus in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed.

    In recent weeks, Syria has acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. As for information about Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, the UN spokesperson noted that OPCW has not shared such information with the UN investigation team.

    The responsibility of verifying the inventory and elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles belongs with the OPCW, the spokesperson stated, adding that this task is beyond the scope of the UN team’s mandate, which is to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons.
    "
  • UN says its chemical weapons inspection team will return to #Syria on Wed. to complete its investigation of pending credible allegations.
  • Speaking before the UN General Assembly, President Obama outlined the United States's current stance on the conflict in Syria:

    With respect to Syria, we believe that as a starting point the international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons.

    When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons, I did not do so lightly. I did so because I believe it is in the national security interests of the United States and in the interest of the world to meaningfully enforce a prohibition whose origins are older than the United Nations itself.

    The ban against the use of chemical weapons, even in war, has been agreed to by 98 percent of humanity. It is strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocated in the trenches, Jews slaughtered in gas chambers, Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands.

    The evidence is overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st. U.N. inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large quantities of sarin gas at civilians. These rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood and landed in opposition neighborhoods.

    It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.

    Now, I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council. But without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all.

    However, as I’ve discussed with President Putin for over a year, most recently in St. Petersburg, my preference has always been a diplomatic resolution to this issue. And in the past several weeks, the United States, Russia and our allies have reached an agreement to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and then to destroy them.

    The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles. Now, there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments. And there must be consequences if they fail to do so. If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.

    On the other hand, if we succeed, it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century and that this body means what it says. Our agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort to reach a political settlement within Syria.

    I do not believe that military action by those within Syria or by external powers can achieve a lasting peace. Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria. That is for the Syrian people to decide.

    Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country. The notion that Syria can somehow return to a pre- war status quo is a fantasy. It’s time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad’s rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear: An increasingly violent space for extremists to operate.

    In turn, those of us who continue to support the moderate opposition must persuade them the Syrian people can’t afford a collapse of state institutions, and that a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing the legitimate fears and concerns of Alawites and other minorities.

    We are committed to working this political trek. And, as we pursue a settlement, let’s remember this is not a zero sum endeavor. We’re no longer in a cold war. There’s no great game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons and insuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists.


    Read the full transcript of President Obama's remarks before the UN General Assembly


  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on major powers to stop sending weapons to all sides in Syria, as he opened the annual UN General Assembly summit.

    "I appeal to all states to stop fuelling the bloodshed and to end the arms flows to all parties," Ban told world leaders at the UNGA opening in New York on Tuesday.

    The UN chief also called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition - and "all those in this hall with influence over them" - to work immediately to arrange a second Geneva conference aimed at reaching a political solution to the crisis that has wracked Syria for more than two years.

    "Military victory is an illusion. The only answer is a political settlement," he said.

    Ban said the response to last month's "heinous use of chemical weapons" outside Damascus "has created diplomatic momentum - the first signs of unity in far too long".

    Read more.

  • The government says it will grant special visas to Syrians who want to leave their conflict-wracked nation and travel to Brazil.

    The government's official gazette says Tuesday that the foreign ministry has been authorized to issue the visas for "humanitarian reasons," allowing Syrians affected by the conflict and the "deterioration of living conditions" to enter.

    Brazil has a Syrian immigrant community estimated at about 3 million. [AP]
  • Moscow hopes the UN Security Council will agree a resolution to support a deal for Syria to abandon its chemical arms, but "talks with the United States have been rocky", a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday. Reuters reports:

    Speaking before negotiations expected on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reiterated Russia's opposition to any threat of military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

    He said Moscow would not accept a resolution that would trigger punitive measures if Assad fails to comply with the U.
    S.-Russian deal under which he has agreed to give up his chemical arsenal.

    "There can be no talk of any automatic sanctions or use of force," Ryabkov said at a meeting in parliament.
    He reiterated Russian concerns that Western states want to use the chemical arms agreement as a pretext for eventual military action.



  • Ban Ki-moon on #Syria : Military victory is an illusion. The only answer is a political solution. #UNGA
  • Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon placed the chemical weapons attack that occurred outside of Damascus that sparked international outcry in the context of Syria's larger civil war.

    "A lost generation of young people now fills refugee camps," said Ban, "We can hardly be satisfied with destroying chemical weapons while wider war is still destroying Syria."

    Ban called on both sides of the Syrian conflict to agree to the Geneva II accords. "Military victory is an illusion," he said. "The only answer is a political solution."
  • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on September 18, 2013. (Reuters/Sana/Handout via Reuters

  • Russia is concerned that talks with the United States on Syria are not going very smoothly and says the chemical weapons deal may have only delayed US military action.

    "Unfortunately it's necessary to note that in contacts with the Americans, things are not going so smoothly...they are not quite going in the direction they should," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in parliament on Tuesday.

    Ryabkov said Russia hopes the UN Security Council will reach agreement this week on a resolution supporting a deal for Syria to abandon its chemical weapons, but there is no guarantee.

    Read more.
  • The head of Lebanon's Shiite group Hezbollah, a staunch ally of Damascus, on Monday urged Saudi Arabia and other supporters of Syrian rebel forces to instead back a political settlement.

    "I want to extend a sincere and honest invitation, in light of the political realities and facts on the ground in Syria... to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Turkey and the rest of the Arab and Islamic states," Hassan Nasrallah
    said in a televised address.

    "Review your positions. The situation has begun to take on very serious dimensions in Syria," he said. "You are betting on a failed military option... The solution is political, and political dialogue."

    Nasrallah's group is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is battling an armed revolt which has the support of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Turkey and much of the international community.

    Hezbollah has sent fighters to assist Assad's troops against the rebels.

    Nasrallah, in his first address since an August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that prompted threats of US military action, warned against foreign intervention in Syria.

    [AFP]
  • France said on Monday it expected the Security Council to agree on a resolution to enforce a chemical weapons deal with Syria and appeared to give up on its previous calls to have a resolution threatening force against President Assad.

    Some UN diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, had expressed concern about whether agreement on a resolution could be reached. However, speaking to reporters in New York French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius appeared to back down.

    "We should take exactly what was foreseen in Geneva," Fabius said. "On that basis we should come to an agreement."

    Fabius appeared to confirm France's willingness to accept Russia's demand that the current draft resolution not be enforceable under Chapter 7.

    [Reuters]
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin warned ex-Soviet allies that fighters from Islamic groups in Syria could eventually spread to their countries, some of which have Muslim majorities.

    "The militant groups [in Syria] did not come out of nowhere, and they will not vanish into thin air," Putin told the six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). "The problem of terrorism spilling from one country to another is absolutely real and could directly affect the interests of any one of our countries," he added, citing the deadly attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi as an example.

    "We are now witnessing a terrible tragedy unfold in Kenya. The militants came from another country, as far as we can judge, and are committing horrendous bloody crimes," Putin said at the CSTO summit in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

    [Reuters]
  • A Libyan commander and a dozen other fighters from al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have been killed in clashes with rival rebel forces in northern Syria, a monitoring group said, in the latest spate of internecine rebel violence.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said six local fighters were also killed in Sunday's battle with ISIL in Hazano, west of the city of Aleppo and close to the border with Turkey.

    Clashes pitting the al Qaeda-linked ISIL and Nusra Front brigades against less effective but more moderate rebel forces have been intensifying recently, especially in opposition-held territory along Syria's northern and eastern borders.

    The infighting has undermined the rebel military campaign against President Bashar al-Assad. Their uprising began as peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule but degenerated into a war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

    Western powers have said the disarray of rebel forces and growing influence of radical armed groups have made them wary of intervening directly in the civil war.

    [Source: Reuters]
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he was "not concerned" about a draft resolution that the US, the UK and France have submitted to the UN Security Council to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control, China's state broadcaster said on Monday.

    Assad was quoted as saying to state television CCTV in an interview that by submitting the draft, "the US, France, and Britain are just trying to make themselves winners in a war against a Syria which is their imaginary enemy".

    Assad also said China and Russia "are playing a positive role in the UN Security Council to ensure any excuse for military action against Syria will not stand".
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says he has given new evidence to Russia on the rebels' use of chemical weapons.

    In an interview with China's state-owned CCTV channel, Assad said the rebels were working under foreign directives.

    The Syrian president said they could try and prevent inspectors from reaching chemical weapons sites.

    He also said that Syria stopped producing chemical weapons in the 1990s.
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