The head of the opposition Free Syrian Army on Saturday rejected an agreement between the US and Russia to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stock by mid-2014.
“We cannot accept any part of this initiative,” Gen. Selim Idriss told reporters in Istanbul, saying it is a blow to the two-and-a-half-year uprising aiming to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“We in the Free Syrian Army are unconcerned by the implementation of any part of the initiative … I and my brothers in arms will continue to fight until the regime falls,” he said.
Idriss said the deal would allow Assad to avoid being held accountable for killing hundreds of civilians in a poison gas attack on Damascus on Aug. 21.
The United States’ strike plans were put off after Russia proposed that Damascus put its chemical arms under international supervision, Assad agreed to the proposal.
Idriss spoke shortly after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the agreed time frame, after three days of talks in Geneva.
“Are we Syrians supposed to wait until mid-2014, to continue being killed every day and to accept (the deal) just because the chemical arms will be destroyed in 2014,” asked Idriss.
“We respect our friends (in the international community), and we hope our friends understand our position … We cannot accept this initiative because it ignores … the massacre of our people.”
Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird called Syria’s offer to begin providing information on its chemical arsenal 30 days after it signs an international convention banning such weapons “ridiculous and absurd.”
Baird said Assad could not be given extra time. “This is a man, who up until a week ago denied that they had any such weapons.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who joined Baird at a news conference Saturday in Istanbul, also expressed skepticism, saying that Assad was playing for time while continuing to commit atrocities.
Davutoglu said Turkey welcomed the diplomatic initiative to remove Syria’s chemical weapons, but it was still incumbent on the international community to bring to justice the Syrian officials responsible for crimes against humanity.
Obama welcomed the deal, but said much remains to be done and warned Damascus to comply with the accord.
Obama said if the regime does not live up to the deal, “the United States remains prepared to act.”
Obama said the accord was made possible “in part” by what he called his credible threat to use force against Syria as punishment.
The accord marked a very swift change in the direction of the latest chapter of the Syria crisis.