TRANSCRIPT: [Putin] Comments on the chemical weapons situation in Syria

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(Kremlin.ru – September 10, 2013 – Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region)

QUESTION: Mr President, everybody’s talking about Syria, chemical weapons and bringing Syria’s chemical arsenal under international control. We have just received a report from Washington saying you discussed this matter with President Obama at the G20 summit in St Petersburg. Is it true? Did you talk about this? And if so, whose idea was it, President Obama’s or yours? And how realistic do you think this proposal is?

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: It is a well-known fact that Syria has a chemical weapons arsenal, and Syrians have always regarded it as a counterbalance to Israel’s nuclear stockpile.

Russia’s position on the issue is well-known: we are against the proliferation of any weapons of mass destruction, including both chemical and nuclear weapons.

Given the current situation in Syria, this issue is particularly pressing, and we did discuss this matter on the margins of the G20 summit in St Petersburg.

In fact, the matter of bringing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control has long been a subject of discussion by experts and politicians.

And, like I said, the US president and myself also talked about this on the margins of the summit.

We agreed to step up these efforts and instruct the Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister to work together and see if they can achieve some progress in this regard.

On September 9, we heard US Secretary of State John Kerry saying in a public statement in London that the US thinks this is extremely important for the resolution of the Syrian crisis. We, too, think this is a serious matter which requires thorough consideration.

With the foreign minister of Syria currently on a visit to Moscow, our Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talked to him, and he then talked to his country’s leadership, and we hear that Syria responded positively to this proposal.

Not only do we think this is a viable option, but we really hope that our friends in Syria take this responsible decision and agree not only to bring their chemical weapons under international control but also to have them destroyed, and we hope Syria joins the international convention banning chemical weapons.

I think this will be a big step forward in resolving the Syrian crisis. Of course, all of this will only mean anything if the United States and other nations supporting it tell us that they’re giving up their plan to use force against Syria.

You can’t really ask Syria, or any other country, to disarm unilaterally while military action against it is being contemplated.

We will work together with Syrians and our US partners, and, like I said, I hope this will be a big step forwards towards a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.