Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - An advance group of international inspectors arrived in Syria yesterday to begin the ambitious task of overseeing the destruction of President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons programme. The mission was set up after a US-Russia deal endorsed by the UN, following a deadly chemical attack in Ghouta (Damascus) on August 21.
The experts have about nine months to complete the task, the shortest deadline that experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, have ever faced in any nation, and their first mission in a country at war.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has promised to comply with the disarmament deal. "History proves that we have always honoured all treaties we have signed," he said in an interview with Italian television on Sept. 29.
The UN, the Arab League, Washington and Moscow are trying to build up consensus for peace settlement talks in Geneva. Discussions would start in mid-November.
Up to now a peace conference has been delayed by the crossing veto on the participants made by the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Another problem faced by the conveying of the conference is whom should represent the opposition. Among the groups who are fighting Mr Assad there are also fights between the Free Syrian Army, a secular group, and the radical Islamic groups, linked to al Qaeda, coming from various Muslim countries.
According to The Independent newspaper, some weeks ago, a delegation of the Free Syrian Army arrived in secret in Damascus to meet a senior official on the staff of President Bashar al-Assad. They were carrying the offer of possible talks between the government and FSA officers who "believed in a Syrian solution" to the war.
The delegation made four points: that there must be an "internal Syrian dialogue"; that private and public properties must be maintained; that there must be an end to - and condemnation of - civil, sectarian, ethnic strife; and that all must work for a democratic Syria where the supremacy of law would be dominant. There was no demand - at least at this stage - for Assad's departure.