US blasts Syria for Disarmament Conference role, threats to ceasefire

Syria has assumed the presidency of the UN-backed, Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, much to the dismay and outrage of the Western powers.

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Syria has assumed the presidency of the UN-backed, Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, much to the dismay and outrage of the Western powers.

Established in 1979, the 65-member Conference on Disarmament—whose work has included the negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, banning the production and use of such weapons— rotates its presidency every four weeks, in alphabetical order.

Syria took over the presidency of the organization from Switzerland on Monday, prompting protest from the US, UK, France, and Israel.

The US walked out of the Conference on Tuesday, in demonstration of its strong opposition to Syria’s leading the organization.

The US ambassador denounced Syria, saying, “This is a regime responsible for killing countless of its own civilians, many of whom have been impacted by chemical weapons attacks.”

“We are outraged,” State Department Spokesperson, Heather Nauert, affirmed on Tuesday, “at the Syrian regime’s blatant disregard for human life, its serial violations and contempt for its international obligations, and its audaciousness in assuming the presidency of an international body committed to advancing disarmament and nonproliferation.”

Russia, however, defended its Syrian ally at the Conference.

On the same day, Syria recognized two Russian-backed separatist regions in Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The two areas broke away from Georgia in 2008, while Georgia, itself, was annexed by Russia in the nineteenth century and then, in 1991, broke away from Moscow, as the Soviet Union collapsed.

Nauert stated that Syria’s recognition of the two break-away republics did not come as “a complete surprise” to US officials. “Bashar al-Assad is propped up by the Russian regime,” she stated.

A third source of tension between the US, on the one hand, and Russia and its Syrian ally, on the other, emerged on Friday. The State Department issued a statement warning against an “impending” Syrian regime attack on the de-escalation zone in southwest Syria, negotiated last year among the US, Jordan, and Russia.

The US statement cautioned Damascus “against any actions that risk broadening the conflict or jeopardize the ceasefire.”

On Tuesday, responding to a question from Kurdistan 24, Nauert reiterated the US concern. “This has been successful; for the most part, the ceasefire” there “has held since July,” she affirmed. “This is the most crowded population area that has been the safest in all of Syria.”

Nauert also emphasized Moscow’s responsibility. “Russia, in agreeing to this ceasefire zone, has agreed to help bolster it and protect it,” she stated.

“This is an issue that we have raised with the Russians through our Amman monitoring channel,” she further explained, and “those conversations are ongoing.”

The following day, on Wednesday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, said that representatives from the US, Russia, and Jordan, would meet in Amman to discuss the situation in the Syrian de-escalation zones, TASS, the official Russian news agency, reported.

There has been no confirmation from the US side, however.