The Syrian government has welcomed the framework deal for the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile. The breakthrough on the contentions issue of Syria chemical weapons came on Saturday, three days after talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, began in Geneva.
"We welcome the agreement," Syrian Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar is reported to have told a Russian news agency.
"On the one hand, it helps Syria come out of the crisis and, on the other, it helps avoid the war against Syria depriving those who wanted to launch it of arguments to do so," Minister Haidar was quoted as saying.
"It's a victory for Syria achieved thanks to our Russian friends."
The U.S. had threatened to attack Syria for a chemical attack in August which killed hundreds. The U.S. blames government forces loyal to President President Bashar al-Assad for having carried out the chemical attack. Assad government has however denied the allegations. They accused the rebels of carrying out the strike to draw the U.S. and allies into the conflict, on their side.
Syria has recently agreed to join the global Chemical Weapons Convention, and the UN said it would come under the treaty from 14 October. China, France, the UK, the UN, the Arab League and NATO have also expressed satisfaction at the agreement.
Calling it an "important step," U.S. President Barack Obama urged Syria to "live up to its public commitments". "If diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act," Obama said. Reports quote Pentagon saying that U.S. military was still in position for military strikes.
However, analysts say the timetable for the process of disarmament and destruction of Syria's chemical weapon arsenal is as extremely ambitious.
The deal envisages Syria provide a full inventory of its chemical weapons in one week, all production equipment being destroyed by November, and all weapons being removed from Syria or destroyed by mid-2014.
If Syria fails to comply, the deal provides for a UN resolution to be sought under Chapter VII of the UN charter, which allows for the use of force. However, the Russian foreign minister maintained that the option to use force will be a last-ditch option.
Reports quoted U.S. officials saying, that Russia and the U.S. agree that the Syrian government possesses 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents and precursors. However, both have not been able to agree on the number of sites where these materials are located.
U.S. believes the materials are located in 45 sites. It says all these sites are in government hands and about half of the material is useable quantities of chemical agents.
However, it is being thought that the Russians do not agree with U.S. assessment on the number of sites. Nor do the Russian agree that all the sites are in government's controlled areas.
Rebels Reject the Deal
However, rebel groups have rejected the framework deal. Military leader of the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army called it a Russian ploy to buy time for President Assad.
The Syrian National Coalition, the main umbrella opposition group has demanded that the ban on chemical weapons be extended to the Syrian government's use of ballistic missiles and air power against civilian population centres.
Meanwhile inside Syria, the fighting continued on Sunday. Heavy shelling by government forces on suburbs of Damascus was reported. The place has seen fierce fighting taking place for past several days.
Reports say that more than 100,000 people have died since the uprising against President Assad began in 2011.
Millions of Syrians have fled the country to escape the fighting. Most of the refugees are in neighbouring nations and millions of others have been internally displaced within Syria.
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