Syria’s main opposition group in exile was “deeply skeptical” Friday about Damascus signing an international treaty banning the production and use of chemical weapons, saying a U.N. resolution was needed to enforce compliance.
Syrian President Bashar Assad told Russian TV that his government would start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention.
“This gesture comes as too little, too late to save civilians from the regime’s murderous intent,” said the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council.
“It is clearly an attempt to evade international action as well as accountability in front of the Syrian people,” it said.
It said the regime must not be allowed to use diplomacy “to indefinitely stall international action while it continues its policy of widespread violence against civilians.”
Syria’s acceptance of a Russian proposal to relinquish its chemical weapons stockpile has — for now — averted a U.S. military strike in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds near Damascus on Aug. 21.
The U.S. accuses Assad’s government of being responsible for the attack in the suburb of Ghouta, saying 1,429 people were killed; others estimated a lower death toll.
Assad has denied responsibility, blaming the rebels and accusing Washington of spreading lies without evidence to justify a military strike.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he believes there will be “an overwhelming report” from the world body’s inspectors that chemical weapons were used in the attack, but he did not say who was responsible. Under the mandate for the inspectors, the team was to determine whether or not chemical agents were used and if so, which agent.
The chief chemical weapons inspector, Ake Sellstrom, told The Associated Press that he has completed his report and will deliver it to Ban in New York this weekend.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Geneva with U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to examine political developments and plot a new international conference to support the creation of a transitional government for Syria.