Hague set for Paris summit on Syria amid rebel calls

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Foreign Secretary William Hague is to hold fresh talks on Syria today amid calls for ballistic missiles and air power to be included in a plan to destroy President Bashar Assad’s arsenal of chemical weapons.

Mr Hague will travel to Paris for the meeting after a framework agreement was hammered out by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during three days of talks in Geneva on Saturday.

Prior to the agreement being reached, US military strikes on Syria appeared imminent following accusations that the Assad government killed over 1,400 people in a poison gas attack against rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on August 21.

President Barack Obama’s decision to ask Congress for authorisation set back any armed response, before the US and Russia struck a framework agreement to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical stockpile with the Assad regime’s authorisation.

But the main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, has also called for action on Syrian air strikes and the deployment of ballistic missiles to help address the wider civil war.

In a statement posted on its official website read: “The Syrian Coalition insists that the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons, which killed more than 1,400 Syrian civilians, be extended to include the prohibition of the use of air forces and ballistic missiles on residential areas.”

The statement also said chemical weapons “are a part of a bigger scheme of crimes against humanity committed by the Assad regime”.

Mr Hague will be briefed at the Paris meeting by Mr Kerry on the plan’s detailing alongside French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The deal requires Syria to submit a full inventory of its stockpiles within a week, international inspectors to be on the ground by November and the weapons to be destroyed or removed from the country by mid 2014.

Failure to comply would be referred to the United Nations Security Council, with the prospect of a Chapter 7 resolution which could permit either a military or a non-military response.

Mr Kerry has already sent a strong warning to Syria, saying “the threat of force is real” if it does not carry out a plan to hand over its chemical weapons.

Mr Hague said: “The priority must now be full and prompt implementation of the agreement, to ensure the transfer of Syria’s chemical weapons to international control.

“The onus is now on the Assad regime to comply with this agreement in full. The international community, including Russia, must hold the regime to account.

“This includes doing everything we can to stop the continuing bloodshed in Syria.”

The deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons also offers the potential for reviving international peace talks to end a civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and sent two million refugees fleeing for safety.