BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications firstname.lastname@example.org
THE United States has welcomed Jamaica's support for the agreement between Washington and Moscow for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons.
America's position was related by US Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater in an interview with newspaper journalists at her residence in Kingston last Friday afternoon.
"We were very happy that Jamaica stated its support for the US/Russia framework agreement," Ambassador Bridgewater said in response to a question from the Jamaica Observer on the issue.
"Let me say how pleased we are that Jamaica stepped out on an issue that is important to Jamaica and important to us," Bridgewater added shortly after introducing her new Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Lee Martinez and Consul General Mike Schimmel.
Jamaica voiced its support for the agreement and urged the parties involved to work towards a quick implementation of the pact.
"Jamaica has always advocated a resolution of the situation in Syria through dialogue and consultation," the foreign ministry said in a statement last week. "The recent conclusion of the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons agreed to by the governments of the United States and the Russian Federation is therefore a positive and welcome development, as acting through the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), it will allow for a structured dismantling of the use of chemical weapons in Syria through destruction and verification of these weapons."
The agreement, which was worked out in marathon negotiations between US and Russian diplomats just over a week ago, averts American missile strikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime which has been accused of using chemical weapons in an August 21 attack on the Damascus suburbs that killed hundreds of civilians in Syria's deadly civil war.
Washington, though, has warned that the use of force remains on the table if Damascus does not comply.
"The threat of force is real, and the Assad regime and all those taking part need to understand that President Obama and the United States are committed to achieve this goal," US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week in Jerusalem, where he briefed Israeli leaders on the agreement.
The deal requires Syria to provide an inventory for its chemical weapons programme within one week and hand over all of the components of its programme by mid-2014.
Jamaica, in its statement on the issue, said: "We note that action under the framework is to be reinforced by a decision of the United Nations Security Council, which will also allow for a verification process, effective implementation, review on a regular basis, and provide a role for the UN secretary general in consultation with the OPCW, to submit reports to the Security Council on an expedited basis, regarding the UN's role in eliminating chemical weapons in Syria.
"Such action bolsters the involvement of the multilateral system in dealing with the situation in Syria and is in keeping with Jamaica's position on this matter. We also note that non-compliance will be dealt with in the proposed resolution and will allow for action under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter if necessary," the foreign ministry added.
The Jamaican Government also said that while it welcomed the agreement, Kingston "also remains deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict in Syria and the mounting toll it is taking in relation to civilian casualties and the displacement of large numbers of persons. We therefore call on the international community to pursue efforts to arrive at a durable and sustainable solution".
On Saturday, wire services reported that Syria handed over complete data on its chemical arsenal to the OPCW, which said it was examining the information.
The disclosure met the deadline in the US/Russia agreement and came as Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said Russia may change its position on ally Syria if it sees any "cheating" by the regime.
The civil war has left more than 100,000 dead and resulted in over two million Syrians fleeing to neighbouring countries.