Israel cautiously welcomes Syria deal, but says implementation is key
Lieberman: Assad's credibility must not be taken for granted; Iran calls Syria chemical weapons deal a sign of U.S. 'rationality.'
Israel cautiously welcomed on Sunday a U.S.-Russian deal to remove Syria's chemical weapons, hours before planned talks in Jerusalem between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Saturday for Syrian President Bashar Assad to account for his chemical arsenal within a week and let international inspectors eliminate it all by the middle of 2014.
"Like any deal it will be judged on its results. We hope it will succeed," said Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is close to Netanyahu.
"The deal has advantages and disadvantages," he told Army Radio.
"On the one hand, it lacks the necessary speed [in removing chemical arms from Syria]. On the other hand, it is much more comprehensive, as it includes a Syrian commitment to dismantle the manufacturing facilities and to never again produce chemical weapons," he said.
Also on Army Radio, Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said intelligence that Israel has gathered on neighboring Syria could help verify Assad's compliance with the accord.
"We will understand Assad's intentions only in a week when he is meant to hand over a full list of all the chemical weapons at his disposal, and I think Israel has a not bad idea of what chemical weapons he has," Lieberman said.
"The Syria deal is good for Israel – but its test will be in implementation," he said.
Israel will consider ratifying the chemical arms ban only after a "new Middle East" is ushered in, Lieberman said, warning that caution must be exercised with respect to any Syrian commitments. "Assad has a very problematic record on matters of credibility and true intentions," said Lieberman.
"Just recently he was still denying that Syria even possesses any chemical weapons."
The Iranian speaker of parliament, meanwhile, welcomed the deal as a sign of U.S. "rationality," Iranian media reported on Sunday.
In a late-evening news conference, speaker Ali Larijani said that any U.S. strike in retaliation for the gas attack would result in a larger conflict in the region and would be against international law - and that U.S. policymakers had realized this.
"We are hopeful that American politicians have some rationality so they avoid extremist behavior, and the events of the last few days and the decisions that have been taken indicate this rationality," Larijani said, according to the ISNA news agency on Sunday.
Iran strongly backs Assad against the rebels seeking to oust him, and has said the rebels were responsible for a chemical attack last month outside of Damascus. The United States and its allies say Assad's government is responsible.
Endorsements for the deal also flowed in from China, where French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was visiting on an official visit. During a press conference, Fabius welcomed the deal as an important first step, and called for a political solution to address the mounting death toll in Syria.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier also offered words of praise for the deal during his meeting with Fabius. "We believe that this framework agreement has ameliorated the present explosive and tense situation in Syria," he said.