Ankara/Havana/Cairo/Jerusalem, Sep 16 — US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday warned the Syrian regime saying “the threat of force is real” if it fails to dismantle its chemical weapon stockpiles, as the UN confirmed reports of 739,000 Syrians taking refuge in neighbouring Lebanon — up by 13,000 since last week.
Kerry arrived in Jerusalem Sunday for a one-day visit to brief Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the US-Russian deal to dismantle Syria of its chemical weapons by mid-2014.
Washington’s top diplomat reassured sceptic Israel that the new deal “has the full ability to strip all of the chemical weapons from Syria”, Xinhua reported.
Netanyahu said the Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad “must be stripped of all its chemical weapons, and that would make our entire region a lot safer.”
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Sunday said that about 636,000 refugees have been registered in Lebanon while more than 103,000 are still waiting for their registration process to complete.
A weekly report by the UN refugee agency said the registered refugees are benefiting from aid provided by the Lebanese government, the UN agencies and its non-governmental organisations.
The Syrian opposition Sunday demanded that the ban on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government should be expanded to military aviation and ballistic missiles as well.
“The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces insists the ban on use of chemical weapon is spread on use of ballistic missiles and use of aviation in settlements,” ITAR-TASS reported from Ankara citing a communique issued by the coalition.
The opposition forces also demanded that those responsible for the alleged chemical attack Aug 21 near Damascus be brought to justice at the International Criminal Court.
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro has, in an article titled ‘Undeletable Memories’, applauded the Russia-backed proposal for a commitment to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.
The risk of the Syrian conflict to explode seems to have diminished thanks to the intelligent Russian initiative, which stood strong before the unusual claim of the US government, reported Xinhua Saturday citing the former president’s article.
The article was dated Sep 10 and published in the Cuban press Saturday.
A US attack on Syria could cost thousands of lives and unleash a conflict of unpredictable consequences, Castro said.
He said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “contributed maybe to avoid an immediate global catastrophe”.
Castro, 87, said the American people were also opposed to a political adventure that would not only affect their own country but also all humanity.
The US and Russia agreed Saturday on a framework to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014.
In another development, the Turkish foreign ministry said that the US-Russia agreement, though a positive step, could be exploited by the Syrian government.
The deal should not turn into a process that would buy time for Syria, Xinhua quoted a foreign ministry official in Ankara as saying citing local media.
The given schedule to strip Syria of its chemical weapons was long enough for it to exploit the deal, it added.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated his concerns over Syria during a phone call with US Secretary of State John Kerry late Saturday, semi-official Anatolian news agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying.
He said the agreement did not address the urgent need to solve the conflict in Syria.
In Cairo, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy Sunday said his country was following with great interest the agreement reached by the US and Russia which should pave the way for the desired political solution to the Syrian crisis.
The official MENA news agency quoted the Egyptian foreign ministry as saying that Fahmy has expressed his hope that the agreement would open the way for a conference as soon as possible.
He called on the Syrian parties that will participate in the conference to work to heal without delay to save the lives of Syrian citizens, the United Arab Emirates’ official news agency WAM reported from Cairo.
He appealed to the parties to bring regional security and stability in order to achieve the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people in a democratic state that would allow all Syrians to participate in building their common future.
In Tokyo, the Japanese government Sunday welcomed the agreement between the US and Russia, according to the country’s foreign ministry.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, in a statement, hailed the agreement to secure and eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision and called for a “sincere response” by the Syrian government, Xinhua reported.
He also said Japan “will watch its real action”.