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France cautiously welcomes deal on Syria

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-15

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has welcomed a Russian-US deal on dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, calling it “a significant step” ahead of a meeting in Beijing on Sunday with his Chinese counterpart.

Ahead of a bilateral meeting in Beijing on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his Chinese counterpart welcomed a Russian-US deal on dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Fabius said the deal – which gives Damascus a week to declare the locations of its chemical weapons stockpiles – was “a significant step forward”.

"Only a few days ago, Syria was denying having chemical weapons and having used them," he said. "From now on, we are in a new phase."

Fabius cautioned, however, that there was still a long way to go, calling Saturday's agreement "only a first stage".

Fabius is in Beijing as part of a larger diplomatic push to secure international support for bringing an end to Syria’s two-and-a-half-year civil war.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the deal offered another chance to address the chemical weapons issue “through peaceful means”.

“We believe the framework agreement will ease the current tense situation that may be triggered at any moment in Syria and creates new prospects for resolving the chemical weapon issue in Syria through peaceful means,” Wang said.

Following a third day of intense negotiations in Geneva, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed Saturday on a deal to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

Elements of the accord include a mid-2014 deadline for disarmament, an outline of Syria's compliance requirements and a clause stipulating that, if Syria falls short of its commitments, Russia and the United States would jointly seek recourse at the UN Security Council.

But the deal has been categorically rejected by anti-regime rebel forces who warn that it will not bring an end to a civil war that has already killed more than 110,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and displaced millions more.

"We cannot accept any part of this initiative," said Free Syrian Army chief General Selim Idriss.

"Are we Syrians supposed to wait until mid-2014, to continue being killed every day and to accept [the deal] just because the chemical arms will be destroyed in 2014?" he asked.

Opposite sides

France, which has strategic and historic interests in the Middle East, firmly backs Syria's opposition rebels and has urged military action following an August 21 chemical attack that both Paris and Washington believe was launched by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In contrast, Russia has blamed the rebels for the attack while Moscow and Beijing have consistently blocked UN resolutions aimed at sanctioning the Assad regime.

A statement on the Foreign Ministry website said that Fabius will be discussing details of the deal’s implementation at a meeting in Paris on Monday with Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The ministry statement said  a report by UN inspectors on the chemical weapons attack outside Damascus would also probably be published on Monday.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

Date created : 2013-09-15

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