Syrian Opposition: “We Don’t Trust the Russians”

Medyan Dairieh/Zuma

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President Obama has reportedly thrown his support behind the Russian proposal for the Syrian regime to turn its chemical weapons over to the international community, agreeing to talks at the United Nations Security Council. But at a Tuesday morning press conference, representatives for the Syrian opposition made its position clear: “We don’t trust the Russians.”

At the National Press Club in Washington, DC, members of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, the chief political body representing the US-backed rebels, asked for greater monetary and material support from the US, and made the case that the opposition was still capable of overthrowing the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But most pointedly, Farah al-Atassi, a Syrian Coalition member and president of the National Syrian Women Association, said that Russia’s close ties to the Assad regime have cost it any credibility in the negotiations. “After two and a half years of manipulating the Syrian revolution, of manipulating the situation on the ground, of aiding the regime with military weapons, with scuds, with money, with intelligence, with all of the support,” she said, “we can’t trust them.”

On Monday, Russia proposed a plan for Syria to turn its stockpile of chemical weapons over to the international community, after Secretary of State John Kerry said that was a possible option for avoiding a strike. The proposal has quickly gained momentum. The Assad regime embraced the proposal Tuesday morning, and by the afternoon, a bipartisan group of eight senators were drafting a Congressional resolution to give the United Nations time to take control of Syria’s chemical weapons. The plan calls for them to be confiscated and ultimately destroyed, and could involve Syria recognizing the international weapons ban.

Russia has been a key supplier of arms and funds to the Assad regime, in addition to providing political cover, previously threatening to veto any plan for intervention at the UN Security Council.

“They’ve become part of the problem. They’re not part of the solution,” said al-Atassi. “We will wait, and work according to the Syrian revolution’s interest. That will be our answer.”

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