September 10, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese foreign ministry on Tuesday issued a statement welcoming Russian initiative announced yesterday by which the Syrian government would agree to placing its chemical weapons stockpile under international control.
- Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R, front) shows the way to his Syrian counterpart Walid Moualem (L) during a meeting in Moscow September 9, 2013 (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)
The 11th hour proposal by Moscow was made as the United States Congress was deliberating on request by president Barack Obama to authorize the use of military force to punish Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons near Damascus on August 21 that Washington says killed 1,429 people including 400 children.
In a televised speech from the White House on Tuesday night, Obama said the Russian offer was "encouraging" and disclosed that he asked leaders in Congress to put off the vote to let diplomacy play out.
France circulated a draft United Nations Security Council (UNSC) which would require that Syria make a complete declaration of its chemical weapons program within 15 days and immediately open all related sites to U.N. inspectors or face possible punitive measures.
But Russia said it opposes any binding UNSC resolution on the issue and instead urged US to drop the threat of using military power against Syria.
Sudan says it supports Moscow’s initiative and welcomed Syria’s acceptance.
"In this regard the foreign ministry welcomes the Russian initiative that aims to place chemical weapons in Syria under international supervision. It also welcomes the acceptance of the Syrian government for this initiative and the renewal of their willingness to participate in the Geneva talks to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis," read the statement.
The foreign ministry also reiterated its rejection of any military aggression against Syria "under any pretext or justification".
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls on all concerned parties in the Syrian crisis and the entire international community to provide an opportunity for the Russian initiative as a way to defuse a new military standoff in the region that will have dire consequences on international security and stability and move towards supporting efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to a political crisis in Syria".
Despite Khartoum’s rejection of outside military intervention in Syria affairs and its call for peaceful settlement, the New York Times (NYT) uncovered last month what it said was a scheme by which Sudan would sell Chinese and local-made weapons to Qatar which in turn has been shipping it to rebels in Syria.
Officials in Khartoum speaking to NYT, vehemently denied the claims but nonetheless said that if Sudan’s weapons were indeed seen with Syria’s rebels then perhaps Libya had provided them.
Sudan assisted Libyan rebels fighting against Gaddafi in 2011 by providing weapons and also allowed NATO to use Sudanese airspace during the enforcement of a No Fly Zone there, according to Western military officials at the time.
However, the NYT argued that this would not explain the Sudanese-made 7.62x39-millimeter ammunition this year in rebel possession near the Syrian city of Idlib.
The ammunition, according to its stamped markings, was made in Sudan in 2012 — after the war in Libya had ended. It was used by Soquor al-Sham, an Islamist group that recognizes the Western-supported Syrian National Coalition’s military command.
Also it would not explain the presence of FN-6 antiaircraft missiles in Syrian rebel units. Neither the Gaddafi loyalists nor the rebels in Libya were known to possess those weapons in 2011, analysts who track missile proliferation told NYT.
The Sudanese government have initially called events in Syria a conspiracy caused by foreign meddling but later sided with Arab League resolution in November 2011 suspending Damascus from the Pan-Arab body.
Sudan also convinced Mauritania and Somalia to back it, according to diplomats who spoke to Reuters at the time.
The Arab League is expected to meet in Cairo on Sunday for discussions on Syria and is expected to come under heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia to back US strikes.