A senior Israeli official voiced cautious support on Thursday for Syria
giving up its chemical weaponry under a Russian proposal being
considered by the United States.
"I cannot say that we have full
faith, but if this Russian proposal ... will really remove the chemical
weaponry from Syria, first of all, and will then dismantle it ... then
this is a way to end this tragedy and a way to end this threat too,"
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio.
words seemed to support Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's comments on
Wednesday regarding the Russian proposal, when he likewise offered
"Now what needs to be ensured is that the
Syrian regime’s chemical weapons will be dismantled and the world will
ensure that anyone who uses weapons of mass destruction will pay a
price," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister said that Iran will be
closely following the extent to which the West follows through on
Syria's offer to hand over its chemical weapons arsenal.
Steinitz said implementation of the plan should also require that Moscow "guarantee Syria is cleansed of chemical weaponry."
Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov are due to meet in Geneva on Thursday to try to agree on a
strategy to eliminate the Syrian arsenal.
Wary of appearing to
meddle in the big-power struggle over the Syrian civil war that has
escalated since President Bashar Assad's forces' alleged gas attack near
Damascus on Aug 21, Israel has largely avoided public comment.
on Wednesday demanded the Assad government be "stripped of its chemical
weapons" but stopped short of specifically endorsing the Russian
proposal, which has been accepted by Damascus.
The remarks by
Steinitz suggested that Israel would want any consensual decommissioning
of Syria's chemical arsenal to be expedited by sending it abroad first.
Friedman, a former counter-proliferation official with the Defense
Ministry, told Reuters that neutralizing the weapons inside Syria could
take 1-2 years but that the process could be shortened were they shipped
out to Russia, which is better equipped with chemical counter-agents
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