World Bulletin/News Desk
Syria became a full member of the global anti-chemical weapons treaty on Thursday, the country's U.N. envoy said, a move that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had promised as part of a Russian plan to avoid U.S. air strikes.
The United States reacted cautiously. Several U.N. diplomats and a U.N. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that it was not yet clear that Syria had fulfilled all the conditions for legal accession to the treaty.
"I think there are a few more steps they have to take (before Syria is a signatory) but that's why we're studying the document," a U.N. official said.
Syria was one of only seven countries not to have joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which commits members to destroying their stockpiles.
"Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the (chemical weapons) convention," Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters in New York after submitting relevant documents to the United Nations.
Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said Syria's declared intention to join the Chemical Weapons Convention was just a first step.
"This long overdue step does not address the pressing and immediate need for a mechanism to identify, verify, secure and ultimately destroy Assad's chemical weapons stockpile so they can never again be used," Pelton said. "It also does not include immediate consequences for non-compliance."
"The international community must insist on immediate progress toward destruction of Syria's CW (chemical weapons) program and also make clear that there will be consequences for any Syrian noncompliance," she said.
Pelton added that the United States would "continue our ongoing discussions with the Russians and key international partners to urgently respond to the Assad regime's blatant disregard for international norms."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are meeting in Geneva to try to hammer out the details of a Russian plan for Syria to place its chemical arsenal under international control.
Syria agreed to the plan after the United States threatened military strikes to deter it from using chemical weapons after an Aug. 21 gas attack killed hundreds of people.
Assad's government blames the rebels for that attack. Washington blames the government and says the sarin gas used in it killed more than 1,400 people, including many children.
Russia, a staunch Assad ally, has vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have condemned Assad's government and threatened it with sanctions. The United States has accused Russia of holding the council hostage on the question of Syria.
According to the Chemical Weapons Convention, a country does not become a full member of the treaty until 30 days after its accession or ratification documents are deposited with the United Nations.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's press office confirmed receipt of a letter from Syria that said Damascus would immediately begin complying with the terms of the treaty.
"In their letter, the Syrian authorities have expressed their commitment to observe the obligations entailed by the Convention even before its entry into force for Syria," it said in a statement.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters earlier on Thursday that the United Nations had received an "accession document" from Syria that was currently being studied and translated.
Ja'fari said Assad signed a legislative decree on Thursday that "declared the Syrian Arab Republic approval to accede to the convention." He said Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem had written to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to notify it of Syria's decision to join the convention.
"The chemical weapons in Syria are a mere deterrence against the Israeli nuclear arsenal," Ja'afari said as he waved a document he said was a CIA report on Israel's chemical weapons program.
"It's a deterrent weapon and now the time has come for the Syrian government to join the (convention) as a gesture to show our willingness to be against all weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Russia's moves over Ukraine call European peace order into question and break international laws, says German leader
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin and Moualem were discussing "bilateral relations", declining further comment.
The camp, south of the capital between Saudi Arabia's border and Al Udeid, the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, is being used to train the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate rebels
Hydroelectric and nuclear power plants are running flat out to help cover the shortfall but the country's old electricity grid and infrastructure to do not guarantee reliable supply.
Critics say the bill is anti-democratic and legislators from the Arab community, which makes up 20 percent of Israel's population of 8.2 million, have described the bill as racist.
"Responsibility for casualties during the dispersal of the [Rabaa] Square [sit-in] falls on the protesters, including organizers and armed elements, as well as police," panel head Fouad Riyad said
More than 100 arrested, including student leaders - and police - as Mong Kok site cleared
Many issues were addressed, including previous cooperation agreements, and shared intelligence to fight ISIL, Kurdish lawmaker said
South Asian leaders focus on need for security collaboration and end to regional rivalries
"Attacks may target official government facilities, including embassies and military installations, as well as soft targets such as restaurants, clubs, hotels and other commercial entities," the U.S. advisory said.
Like Georgia, Latvia is a former Soviet republic that is wary of Moscow, and its government has taken a tough line over Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Ankara's plans for establishing so-called "safe zones", with air defence as a key component, have so far received a cool reception from allies
Since his return to Serbia on Nov. 12, Seselj was hailed as a hero at a rally of some 5,000 supporters and has said he still believes in the 'Greater Serbia' ideology that fuelled the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo two decades ago
Israel's Public Security Minister, backed by the Israel Police and internal security agency Shin Bet, is drafting a bill to outlaw the civilian Palestinian guard 'Mourabitoun' stationed on Al- Aqsa
Parliament calls for summit that could pave way for Aung San Suu Kyi to stand in next year's election
The agents were responding to a situation involving a person barricaded inside a house and suffered non-life threatening injuries, local broadcaster KSDK said on its website