PARIS // The United States, France and Britain stepped up pressure on Syria’s president, Bashar Al Assad, yesterday to stick to a deal under which Syria must give up its chemical weapons, and warned he would suffer consequences if he failed to comply.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, immediately cautioned against imposing tough penalties on the Syrian leader and accused European countries of trying to reinterpret the agreement he reached with US secretary of state, John Kerry, over the weekend.
The three western permanent members of the United Nations Security Council said they would seek a strong resolution in the forum, setting binding deadlines for the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons. The statement followed talks in Paris, two days after Mr Kerry’s deal with Mr Lavrov
Mr Kerry said that the three powers agreed with Russia that Mr Al Assad must suffer consequences if he failed to comply with UN demands.
“If Assad fails in time to abide by the terms of this framework, make no mistake, we are all agreed – and that includes Russia – that there will be consequences,” Mr Kerry said.
The accord offered the Syrian leader “no lifeline” and he had “lost all legitimacy”, Mr Kerry added.
After the French president Francois Hollande met Mr Kerry, the British foreign secretary, William Hague and their French peer Laurent Fabius, an aide to Mr Hollande said: “The idea is to stick to a firm line”.
“They’ve agreed to seek a strong and robust resolution that sets precise and binding deadlines with a calendar,” said the official.
Mr Lavrov said any rush to draw up a resolution threatening to punish Syria in the event of non-compliance showed a “lack of understanding” of the agreement.
“Our partners want to again unilaterally review what we’ve agreed on with the Americans. That’s not how you do business, and I’m sure that despite these statements that are coming from European capitals, the Americans will, as proper negotiators, strictly stick to what has been agreed on,” Mr Lavrov said.
He also said it might be time to consider efforts to force the opposition to attend an international peace conference instead of just urging them to do so. So far, the rebels have said they will not attend talks if the Syrian president is there as well.
Saudi Arabia said yesterday that international intervention in Syria must go beyond dismantling the regime’s chemical arsenal.
The Saudi cabinet urged the international community to not simply focus on the issue of chemical weapons in the 30-month conflict in Syria.
The kingdom also renewed “calls for the international community to take effective decisions to immediately end the fighting in Syria”.
* Reuters with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse