Syria's foreign minister has said the government won’t accept any peace plan that excludes President Bashar al-Assad. On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to destroy the regime's chemical weapons.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem made the statement Saturday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Friday's Security Council resolution had also endorsed the outcome of a June 2012 conference in Geneva between the regime and the opposition, which called for the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers. The Syrian opposition, embroiled in the bloody conflict with Assad's forces for two and a half years, has repeatedly refused to take part in any transition government that includes the president.
"For the Syrian people, Bashar Assad is the elected president until mid-2014, when presidential elections will be held," al-Moallem said. He added that anyone could run for the post.
The Council's decision Friday came after the authority tasked with implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention - the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons - had approved the plan. According to the resolution, the UN will work to assist the OPCW in its effort to eliminate all of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons by mid-2014. The 15-member council agreed that non-compliance would prompt a vote on punitive action by passing another resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, including sanctions or military strikes.
"The Security Council has shown that when we put aside politics for the common good, we are still capable of doing big things," US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday. "We must work together with the same determination, the same cooperation that has brought us here tonight, in order to end the conflict that continues to tear Syria apart," he added.
'First hopeful news'
The UN announced Friday that inspectors currently in Syria would investigate seven sites of alleged chemical attacks, four more than previously known. That announcement had come hours before the UN Security Council voted unanimously to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The team initially visited Syria last month to investigate three alleged chemical attacks this year, but, just days into the visit, on August 21, a chemical strike hit the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta, and the inspectors turned their attention to that case.
The inquiry did not assess who committed the attack, but concluded that whoever did had used the nerve agent sarin. According to the United States, more than 1,400 people died in the attack.
On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on both Assad and the opposition to cooperate in the dismantling of the chemical weapons arsenal. He also called on the Syrian government and Syrian opposition to meet in Geneva in mid-November for peace talks.
"Today's historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Council late on Friday. "All sides share a common interest in the permanent destruction of these weapons," Ban added.
Fighting in Syria has claimed more than 100,000 lives since the revolution began as a series of peaceful protests against the government in March 2011. The conflict has also driven some 2 million refugees into neighboring countries, according to UN estimates.
mkg/kms (AFP, dpa, AP)