A top Syrian official hailed the deal reached between the U.S. and Russia to put Syria’s chemical weapons under the international control as a “victory” Sunday.
“We welcome these agreements. On the one hand, they will help Syrians come out of the crisis, and on the other hand, they prevented the war against Syria by having removed a pretext for those who wanted to unleash it,” a clear reference to the United States, Ali Haidar, whose title is minister of national reconciliation said in the interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
Haidar said the deal is “the achievement of the Russian diplomacy and the Russian leadership. This is a victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends.”
Meanwhile, Syrian government warplanes and artillery bombarded rebel-held suburbs of Damascus Sunday after the United States agreed to hold off on military action, Reuters reported.
Syrian rebels, calling the international focus on poison gas a sideshow, dismissed talk that the U.S.-Russia deal might herald peace talks and said President Bashar Assad had stepped up an offensive with ordinary weaponry now that the threat of U.S. airstrikes had receded.
Airstrikes, shelling and infantry attacks on the suburbs of Damascus through Sunday morning offered evidence that Assad is again taking the fight to rebels after a lull following the Aug. 21 gas attack that provoked the threat of U.S. action.
"It's a clever proposal from Russia to prevent the attacks," one Assad supporter told Reuters from the port of Tartous, site of a Russian naval base. "Russia will give us new weapons that are better than chemical weapons. We are strong enough to save our power and fight the terrorists."