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.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby downplayed any disconnect with the White House and said U.S. officials were constantly reviewing Syria options
Kiir will be accompanied on his visit by a number of South Sudanese government ministers and officials.
Announcement follows unprecedented talks between Myanmar’s military, political leaders, major opposition parties
Tension has run high across the occupied West Bank since the Wednesday shooting of an extremist Jewish rabbi in Jerusalem
A perforation made in a subterranean water source during mining activities seemed to have caused the flooding
Al-Ahram said Egyptian authorities asked Moussa Ibrahim to leave the country at the request of the Libyan government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni
A fire broke out at France's public radio headquarters in Paris, forcing live programmes off the air as staff evacuated the vast Paris complex where major building work has been underway
Rula Ghani, spouse of Afghanistan's new president Ashraf Ghani, have already critised some Islamic norms welcomed by Afghan society.
At least 300 ISIL militants were killed and scores of vehicles captured in clashes
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when Kiir accused sacked vice president Riek Machar of leading a failed coup attempt against his regime.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Burkina Faso on Friday to press President Blaise Compaore to step down, a day after the army dissolved parliament and announced a transitional government in the face of violent mass protests.
Erekat's statement came during a meeting with foreign officials in the West Bank city of Jericho
Catalan head Artur Mas plans to hold the Nov. 9 ballot, marshalled by volunteers, in place of a non-binding referendum on independence declared illegal by the Constitutional Court.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's comments show how the threat posed by ISIL has pushed some Shi'ites and Sunnis to overcome their sectarian differences and face a common enemy
The fresh violence comes amid rising tension in the holy city after Israel closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound
The absence of the three Muslim leaders means that only the majority Orthodox Christian countries will be represented