Timeline, Assad estimates $1 billion adequate for weapons disposal – Russian expert

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad and Sergei Lavrov

(Interfax – MOSCOW, September 19, 2013) The estimates of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to which the disposal of Syrian chemical weapons would require approximately one year and cost about $1 billion, are fairly accurate, Chairman of the Council on the Foreign and Defense Policy Fyodor Lukyanov said.

“It is probably close to the truth. What foreign countries are saying – until the middle of 2014 – is around a year from now. Assad is talking about a year being needed. As to the cost, there is a wide range of estimates here – between $150 million and up to $1 billion,” Lukyanov told Interfax on Thursday.

“I think that in this case Bashar al-Assad is more correct because the costs rise quite quickly in any major undertaking as various circumstances emerge and change. I suppose that his estimate is quite accurate,” Lukyanov said.

When speaking about who might finance the disposal of Syrian chemical weapons, Lukyanov said that this issue would be resolved by distributing shares between countries.

“I think that real bargaining will occur due to the financing issue, mainly between Russia and the United States. But I suppose that the U.S. will appeal to its allies in the Middle East during the bargaining process, so to those who were mentioned by (Russian Foreign Minister) Sergei Lavrov, mainly the monarchs of the Persian Gulf. I think that there will be a compromise variant in the end on a share basis. They will bargain for a long time about the shares, especially about who will pay more,” the expert said.

At the same time, not all countries will agree to allowing Syrian chemical weapons to transported across their territory, Lukyanov said.

“Who will destroy (the weapons) is a separate question because this is a very dangerous process. Americans insist on moving chemical weapons out of the country, not on burying and deactivating them, but namely moving them out. But moving anywhere – this matter does not concern neighboring countries where the threat is generally the same – for example, to Russia or directly to the United States means passing through many countries along the Mediterranean and Black Seas, if one speaks of Russia. Any country is unlikely to want chemical weapons pass through its territory or its territorial waters. Turkey will hinder such a plan, for sure,” Lukyanov said.

Syria is ready to implement the Russian-U.S. proposal and hand over control of its weapons to the international community and completely destroy its arsenal, the Syrian president said in an interview with Fox News, a U.S. television channel.

Assad said he was “committed to the full requirements of the agreement” reached by Russia and the United States in Geneva regarding Syrian chemical weapons.

Syria has agreed to implement these agreements not under the threat of a U.S. military operation but in response to Russia’s initiative on the issue, Assad said.

Assad said he admitted that Syria possessed chemical weapons. “It is not a secret anymore,” he said. When asked about Syria’s readiness to transfer the chemical weapons to a third party, which will agree to take them, for their destruction, Assad said that weapons disposal came with high ecological risks but if there were any countries “ready to take such a risk, then let them take it.”

The Syrian president said that the chemical weapons disposal would take about one year and would cost approximately $1 billion.

Assad said he confirmed the statements that the governmental forces did not use chemical weapons. Damascus has “evidence that terrorist groups used sarin gas” and “it was a crime,” he said. The evidence has been given to Russia, the president said.