Israeli minister cautiously welcomes Syria chemical arms plan

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A senior official close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed wary support for a proposal by Russia that suggests placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel’s Army Radio that the implementation of the plan should require that Moscow “guarantee Syria is cleansed of chemical weaponry.

“I cannot say that we have full faith, but if this Russian proposal ... will really remove the chemical weaponry from Syria, first of all, and will then dismantle it ... then this is a way to end this tragedy and a way to end this threat too,” Steinitz said.

The news comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are due to meet in Geneva on Thursday to discuss the Syrian crisis.

Israel has largely avoided public comment since the alleged chemical gas attack near Damascus on Aug. 21.

Netanyahu on Wednesday demanded President Bashar al-Assad government be “stripped of its chemical weapons” but stopped short of specifically endorsing the Russian proposal, which has been accepted by Damascus.

The remarks by Steinitz suggested that Israel would want any consensual decommissioning of Syria's chemical arsenal to be expedited by sending it abroad first.

(With Reuters)

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