Lugar Urges U.S. and Russia to Team Up to Rid Syria of Chemical Weapons
Aug 8 2012 6:23AM GMT
MOSCOW — Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Indiana Republican who has been a leading proponent of joint efforts by the United States and Russia to reduce their arsenals of nuclear and chemical weapons, urged on Tuesday that the two countries team up to eliminate the stockpile of chemical weapons in Syria.
The Syrian government last month threatened to deploy chemical weapons in response to any foreign attack, in what appeared to be the first official confirmation that it had such weapons.
Mr. Lugar’s proposal comes at a delicate time, with Russia steadfastly resisting entreaties by the United States and other countries to authorize more forceful intervention in Syria, which has been locked in a conflict that is now a civil war for 17 months.
In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Lugar said his idea had been initially rebuffed by Russian officials, who noted that Syria had never joined an agreement to eliminate such arms, the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was signed by 188 countries.
“The initial response,” Mr. Lugar said, “was that Syria was not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention — which is true — and we, that is, the United States and Russia, do not own these weapons, and that’s true. But it’s also true that it’s not really clear in the course of events who is going to own them, if anybody; who will be responsible; whether any party really will be a part of the convention.”
Yet, Mr. Lugar added, most countries see the weapons in Syria “as influencing very adversely the potential for peace and stability in the Middle East.”
Mr. Lugar, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, is in Moscow this week to press for an extension of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, an effort that began in 1991 to safeguard and dismantle nuclear and chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union.
The effort is credited with deactivating 7,500 nuclear warheads and overseeing the end of nuclear weapons programs in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. It is named for Mr. Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn, Democrat of Georgia, who helped a reluctant Congress provide financing, and it also led to the construction of a facility in Siberia that has been working to destroy two million Soviet chemical weapons containing nerve agents and other poisons.
Mr. Lugar said the suggestion was his own, not the Obama administration’s. “The threats might be to both of our countries from elsewhere,” he said. “That’s what I am suggesting as maybe a new chapter in our cooperative threat reduction — that we think about our abilities really to be helpful to each other, but also the rest of the world.”
A version of this article appeared in print on August 8, 2012, on page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: Lugar Urges U.S. and Russia to Team Up to Rid Syria of Chemical Weapons.