Kerry lauded the start of the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria as a “good beginning” and said Washington and Moscow had agreed to press the United Nations to set a date for a Syria peace conference in November. In unusual praise for Damascus, Kerry also gave the Assad government credit for quickly complying with the UN resolution on destroying its chemical weapons arsenal.
When asked about Kerry’s statement, Erdoğan said he could not believe that Kerry would make such a statement, one which would contradict his former stance against the Syrian regime. “How could we praise someone who has killed 110,000 people? It does not matter if these people were killed with chemical weapons or with other weapons; in the end they were killed,” he said.
“I do not recognize Assad as a politician anymore. He is a terrorist who kills with his state terrorism. I am speaking clearly. He is a terrorist who has killed 110,000 of his citizens,” Erdoğan added.
“I think it is extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were already being destroyed,” Kerry said at a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at an Asia-Pacific summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.
“I think it’s also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly, as they are supposed to,” Kerry said. But he added: “Now, we hope that will continue. I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road, but it’s a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning.”
A team of international experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague and UN personnel began destroying Syria’s chemical gas arsenal on Sunday.
Their work follows an agreement hammered out between Washington and Moscow after a deadly Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, which prompted US threats of air strikes against the Syrian government. The elimination of the chemical weapons is expected to continue until at least mid-2014.
More than 100,000 people have died in Syria’s conflict, which began in early 2011 with peaceful demonstrations seeking more democracy but deteriorated into a sectarian civil war.