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Syria Update: Obama Calls Off Military Strike

© EVAN VUCCI / POOL / AFP
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Syria accepts Russia’s proposal to place their chemical weapons under international control, while US & UK remain skeptical.

Obama has put a hold to Military intervention in Syria; Damascus has admitted for the first time to using chemical weapons on its people; Russia has handed Syria a report which requests the handing over of their chemical weapons for destruction, to which they have agreed.

Here is a timeline of the most recent developments:

9 Sept.

Russia puts together a plan for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons for placement under international control and subsequent disposal. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reveals that the request had been made during discussions with his Syrian counterpart Walid Maullem.

Syria has supposedly “welcomed” the proposal.

Maullem made the public statement: "We are ready to inform about the location of chemical weapons, halt the production of chemical weapons, and show these objects to representatives of Russia, other states and the United Nations."

"Our adherence to the Russian initiative has a goal of halting the possession of all chemical weapons" he adds.

10 Sept.

The latest UN report reveals atrocities committed by both Assad’s regime and the opposition. “War crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed by all sides” it writes.

“Torture and rape are widespread; government forces use cluster bombs extensively and opposition forces are increasingly carrying out execution style killings.”

Meanwhile, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has said that in light of Russia’s plan to remove Syria’s chemical weapons, France will present a resolution to the UN Security Council which if approved, would entail the extraction of all Syria’s chemical weapons, where they would be placed under international control and ultimately destroyed.

UK & US skeptical

British prime minister David Cameron has hesitantly welcomed the Russian report. However he remains skeptical as to the realistic implementation of the international community taking full control over Assad’s chemical weapons.

Although remarking that it would be "big step forward" if it was successfully carried out, he also stressed the importance of approaching Russia’s plan with diligence and that it should be “tested out properly” to confirm that it was not some sort of "delaying tactic" or "ruse."

Obama also remarked that he was dubious towards the likelihood of Assad actually complying to Russia’s proposal. However he said that if the chemical weapons were removed from Syria and put under international control then he would hold off on military intervention.

"I want to make sure that the norm against [the] use of chemical weapons is maintained” he told Diane Sawyer (ABC News). “If we can do that without a military strike, that is overwhelmingly my preference" he added.

11 Sept. (01:53 BST)

US president Barack Obama decides to hold off on military action in Syria and has opted (for now) to seek diplomatic action in order to effect the removal of the Assad’s chemical weapons. 

In a public speech from the White House he asserted that throughout the whole Syrian conflict he had “resisted calls for military action…because we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

However he said that “the situation profoundly changed, though, on 21 August, when Assad's government gassed to death over 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.

“No-one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria…Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible…The facts cannot be denied.

“Over the last few days we've seen some encouraging signs in part because of the credible threat of US military action as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin. The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons and even said they'd join the chemical weapons convention, which prohibits their use.

“It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad's strongest allies.

“I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorise the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I'm sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin.

“I've spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies, France and the United Kingdom. And we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the UN Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to ultimately destroy them under international control.

“We'll also give UN inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on 21 August. And we will continue to rally support from allies, from Europe to the Americas, from Asia to the Middle East who agree on the need for action.

“Meanwhile, I've ordered our military to maintain their current posture, to keep the pressure on Assad and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails”

In most recent developments, according to Russian media, the country has now given its report to the US for review.

UN to table

More intense and heated debates are now to come as the UN Security Council plan to meet again, in order to discuss the implementation of this resolution, with strict time frames and terms of compliance for Syria to fulfil.

The resolution compiled by France, if implemented, would execute Chapter VII of the UN charter. This means that if Syria failed to comply, then the UN would effectively sanction international military action against the country.

The report provides a 15 day deadline for Syria to hand over a complete account of all its chemical weapons and their whereabouts.

Russia has insisted that any such resolution put to the table in the UN must not officially blame Assad and his regime.

Meanwhile, Assad’s forces tear through the ancient Christian town of Maaloula; the bloody and terrible war continuing to rage between regime and opposition, while civilians are endlessly caught in the middle.

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