Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has told Al Jazeera his country is determined to go forward with the destruction its chemical weapons stockpile.
Muallem told James Bays, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, at the UN on Friday that he hoped that the UN assembly could pave the way for a deal that would bring the two warring sides in Syria to the negotiation table.
“We will commit because we are determined to go forward in the respect of [the agreement of] destroying the chemical weapons,” Mouallem said in the interview at the UN headquarters in New York.
Meanwhile, talks at the world’s chemical watchdog on a draft plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical arsenal had stalled, Michael Luhan, spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) Executive Council, said on Friday.
The OPCW meeting, tasked with approving a blueprint to be incorporated in a key UN Security Council resolution, will resume at 2230 GMT, “or it will be postponed until tomorrow,” OPCW Luhan said.
Mouallem, who is in the US for the UN General Assembly of global leaders, said the government would not make concessions on calls for President Bashar al-Assad to go.
“Nobody can speak about the role of President Assad because it is mentioned in the constitution. So we will not violate our constitution,” Muallem said.
“His role is for the Syrian people is very important and crucial.”
When asked about the prospect of peace in his country, Muallem said it was “premature to speak about it as long as fighting is ongoing on the ground”.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict, which started in March 2011 in the form of peaceful protests against the rule of Assad and developed into a civil war.
The UN Security Council was expected to meet at 8pm ET (0000 GMT) on Friday to discuss a draft resolution to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons.
The draft – already agreed upon by Russia, China, the US, France and Britain – includes two legally binding demands: that Syria abandons its chemical stockpile; and allows unfettered access to chemical weapons experts.
Ahead of the vote, the 41-nation executive council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must agree on a plan to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical arms stockpile.
Security Council breakthrough
If an agreement is sealed at the organisation’s headquarters at The Hague, the UN Security Council in New York can then vote on a UN resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons programme.
After 30 months of paralysis, the agreement represents a breakthrough for the Security Council and rare unity between Russia, which supports Assad’s government, and the US, which backs the opposition.
The more complicated part the Security Council is working on is trying to get both sides of the conflict around the table in Geneva, Bays said.
The five permanent members of the Security Council are due to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi later on Friday on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, said he hoped the five members could set a date on Friday for so-called Geneva 2 peace talks on the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian government has expressed its willingness to go to Geneva and talk with the opposition to end the civil war.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition said the bloc was ready to attend the proposed conference, but wanted the talks to result in establishing a transitional government.
Other opposition voices, including rebels inside Syria, have said they are against talks as long as Assad remains president.