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August 25, 2013 11:11 am

Israeli President Peres Calls for Removal of ‘All Chemical Weapons From Syria’

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Israeli President Shimon Peres. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Israeli President Shimon Peres, on Sunday called for the removal of all chemical weapons from Syria, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, visiting the region to support the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, said the international community must “respond strongly”  to reports of chemical weapons use by the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.

In a joint statement after meeting at the Israeli President’s official residence in Jerusalem, President Peres told Foreign Minister Fabius, “Your voice has been the clearest in recent days concerning the situation in Syria and I wish to express my appreciation for your clarity and courage. There were terrible things in the past but here is a ruler that kills his people with the most terrible means and without any consideration.”

Last week, Syrian rebel forces battling Assad’s  regime said that approximately 1,300 people had died during an overnight strike on a suburb of Damascus. The rebels alleged Assad’s forces used chemical weapons in the attack, pointing to symptoms among the victims of extreme exposure to toxins.

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“The use of chemical weapons to kill hundreds of women and children and the cries of the girl begging her father to come and save her is a cry to which we cannot remain indifferent,” Peres said. “I can understand the problems and the doubts, but the moral call is superior to any strategic considerations. The time has come for a joint effort to remove all the chemical weapons from Syria. They cannot remain there either in the hands of Assad or of others. In addition to everything else needed to stop this massacre there must be an international attempt to take out the weapons. It is very complicated and it is very expensive but it is more dangerous and more expensive to leave it there. It must be done.”

On Syria, Foreign Minister Fabius said, “I have already spoken clearly about the use of chemical weapons and Assad’s regime. We must respond strongly to these events. All the leaders must reach the appropriate response but it is unthinkable that once what happened is proven and those responsible identified there will not be a strong response by the international community. If the international community fails to act following the events in Syria then the people of the world will wonder who can be trusted, on whom can we depend.”

On the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, President Peres called for optimism: “In order to make peace there must be a major effort to overcome skepticism. The fact is that despite the skepticism negotiations opened and it wasn’t easy for either side.”

“We have to create a positive atmosphere to encourage the peace process,” Peres said, adding “if I can think of a period of opportunity to move ahead, it is now.”

“The position of Abu Mazen has improved, he knows it and it helps him. I think the Prime Minister decided to move and he moved. Peace is not easy but if we achieve it then we will be able to turn our attention to the tragic and existential issues of the Middle East.”

Foreign Minister Fabius said: “I am here for a short visit as a friend of Israel, a friend of the Palestinians and a friend of peace. Like you, I believe the time has come to make peace and I welcome your efforts, the efforts of Prime Minister Netanyahu, of Abu Mazen and of Secretary of State Kerry. Peace is within reach, it depends on willingness and I believe it is there on both sides. So many dramatic things are taking place in the region – Syria, Lebanon, how under those circumstances can we make peace? But we must think in the opposite way, because of those things peace is even more important in the region and we must make the most of this moment.”

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