MOSCOW, September 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Syria’s decision to join an anti-chemical weapons convention Friday and said it was a “serious step” toward solving the ongoing Syrian crisis as he attended the opening day of a summit with regional leaders in Kyrgyzstan.
“We should welcome the decision of the Syrian leadership. I would like to express the hope that it will be a very serious step on the road to settlement of the Syrian crisis,” Putin told the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in the Kyrgyzstani capital of Bishkek.
The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday that Damascus had officially joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which commits members to destroying their stockpiles, a diplomatic move proposed by Russia earlier this week to help avoid US military strikes on Syria.
The Russian and US foreign ministers are currently taking part in a series of bilateral meetings in Geneva to discuss Syria and how chemical weapons could be secured in the country ravaged by civil war.
Syria is expected to dominate discussions at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Beijing-based body set up in 2001 that includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The leaders of Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia are also in attendance at this year’s annual summit.
Unlike at the G20 summit earlier this month, however, when Putin faced world leaders who supported international military intervention in Syria, the Russian leader is unlikely to encounter any serious challenges to his stance on Syria in Bishkek.
The group issued a declaration Friday calling for other countries to respect Syrian sovereignty and expressing its support for the Russian plan to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control.
China has consistently backed Russia in blocking international sanctions on Syria, while Iranian President Hasan Rouhani expressed his support Friday for the Russian initiative and Damascus' apparent commitment to giving up its chemical weapons.
In addition to Syria, the leaders will discuss Iran’s nuclear program, Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov told reporters Thursday. The summit participants are also expected to take steps toward the financial integration of the region, with possible agreements about a series of new development banks.
The leaders will sign a Bishkek Declaration as a result of the summit that will include details about the main areas of the organization’s work through 2025, Putin said Friday.