ISTANBUL: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Turkey's foreign minister said today that their countries are creating a formal structure to plan for worst-case scenarios in Syria, including a possible chemical weapons attack on regime opponents.
Clinton and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said their two nations would set up a working group to respond to the crisis in Syria as conditions there deteriorate. They said the group will coordinate military, intelligence and political responses to the potential fallout in the case of a chemical attack, which would result in medical emergencies and a likely rise in the number of refugees fleeing Syria.
"We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning. It needs to be across both of our governments," Clinton said.
She said the US State Department and Turkey's Foreign Ministry had already been working together on the issue but that the new working group would increase the involvement of the intelligence services and militaries of both countries. Among the contingencies that the US and Turkey agree on the need to plan for is ‘the horrible event’ that chemical weapons are used, Clinton said. "What would that mean in terms of response, humanitarian and medical emergency assistance and, of course, what needs to be done to secure those stocks from ever being used or falling into the wrong hands?" Clinton said.
In July, Syria's foreign ministry spokesman threatened the use of chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, assuring that government would never use them against its own citizens. Later, the Syrian government attempted to back away from the announcement and revert to its previous position of neither confirming nor denying the existence of unconventional weapons.
Blast, gunfire in central Damascus
BEIRUT: Syrian TV says authorities are pursuing a “terrorist group” that detonated a bomb in central Damascus and opened fire on civilians there. The TV says the bomb blast went off in Marjeh, a major square in downtown Damascus. No further details were immediately available but residents in Damascus reported hearing a loud explosion followed by gunfire that lasted several minutes on Saturday. Authorities routinely refer to rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad's regime as ‘terrorists’. Syrian troops say they have pushed the rebels from the capital after intense, week-long battles last month. But opposition fighters continue to stage hit-and-run attacks and are active in the city suburbs.