MOSCOW, October 11 (RIA Novosti) - Bashar al-Jaafari, Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, addressed the UN this week, saying that Turkey and Saudi Arabia should account for their own involvement in the Syrian conflict before leveling “null and baseless accusations to the Syrian government”. Syria’s government has been accused of chemical attacks in northern Syria in recent months, Syrian Arab News Agency reported.
Speaking before the UN’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security at the UN General Assembly on Friday, al-Jaafari accused the countries of being “directly involved in providing these terrorist organizations with chemical weapons,” the source said.
He also criticized the states for supplying the Syrian opposition with financing and weaponry, claiming that Turkey alone provided support for 106 militant organizations active in Syria. This, he said, includes open state support for the Free Syrian Army. Al-Jaafari commented that instead of lending “a helping hand to Syria to overcome the crisis...this Turkish government...became one of the main support bases for these terrorist organizations,” the source noted.
Al-Jaafari proposed that the UN Arms Trade Treaty should be updated to account for the illicit trafficking of small and light arms, noting the need to “utterly [prohibit] supplying weapons to non-state elements and armed terrorist organizations. Facts which we are witnessing today in Syria and in a number of countries in the region and outside it prove the veracity of our concerns regarding the aforementioned treaty,” he said.
Ambassador’s Statements Follow US Vice President’s Forthright Comments
Ambassador al-Jaafari made his comments in the aftermath of candid remarks by US Vice President Joe Biden, who criticized Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for supporting radical fighters in Syria.
Speaking at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy Forum on October 2, Biden noted that the US allies were “so determined to take down Assad” that “they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad –except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of Jihadis coming from other parts of the world,” the Washington Post reported.
Biden said that even despite al-Nusra’s classification as a terrorist organization by the US State Department early on in the conflict, “we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.”
The Vice President has since apologized for his remarks, but his frankness lead Foreign Policy to title their piece on the subject “Joe Biden Is the Only Honest Man in Washington.”
The Islamic State, which today controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria, had previously been affiliated with al-Nusra, Al Qaeda’s front in Syria, before the two split in early 2013. Armed clashes between the two began at the start of this year.
NATO Members Accuse Syria of Chemical Weapons Use
The US announced last month that they are “gravely concerned” about reports of chlorine attacks in several Syrian villages in Hama after the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) presented their findings, ABC News reported.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said last week that the OPCW findings “corroborate allegations that the Assad regime is continuing to use chemical weapons in Syria, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention” the Independent said.
Lithuania’s Mission to the UN also commented, tweeting that only the Syrian government could have been responsible for the attacks, asking observers to “connect the dots,” the Guardian said.
Addressing the accusatory comments, UN Ambassador al-Jaafari noted that his country “condemns in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction, and considers it an abhorrent crime and an impermissible, reprehensible and unethical act,” adding that “a small number of governments used this report to slander Syria, which is out of place and doesn’t serve the credibility of the OPCW,” Syrian Arab News Agency cited him as saying.
Al-Jaafari noted that the OPCW’s September report about the use of chlorine, which did not assign blame, should not be politicized, the source also noted.
Ahmet Uzumcu, Director General of the OPCW, said in an interview with the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that from the beginning of allegations of chlorine use in April of this year, “the Syrian government had committed itself to cooperating.” Uzumcu added that the organization has recently “received some information about the use of chlorine in Iraq, too.”
The OPCW chief said that his “evaluation of the level of cooperation over the past 12 months is that it was quite satisfactory, quite positive.”
Syrian Government Gives Up Chemical Weapons
Syrian authorities had told the press in late September that the country had turned over all its chemical weapons stockpiles to OCPW authorities. "Syria has fulfilled its obligations by adhering to the Chemical Weapons Convention," Syria's Foreign Ministry said in a press statement, adding that the country had “cooperated fully with the [OPCW] and no longer possesses these weapons,” Agence France-Presse had reported.
The UN-OPCW mission has removed 1,300 tons of chemical weapons from the Syria as a result of a deal brokered by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry last year, placing the country’s chemical weapons arsenal under international control. The country handed documents describing their weapons stockpiles to the OPCW last September, and joined the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty a month later.
The plea to avert US airstrikes against Syria included a personal appeal by President Vladimir Putin to the American people, which was published in the New York Times.
The Syrian Civil War has taken the lives of over 191,000 people since it started in March 2011, according to UN estimates. The government’s forces are opposed by numerous militias, including radical Islamist terrorist groups with fighters from all over the world. Last month the United States began bombing militias affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria, with cautious Syrian approval.