Middle East

Mixed response from media to Syria chemical weapons deal

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) holds a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on September 14, 2013 after they met for talks on Syria"s chemical weapons.
Image caption Number of commentators saw the deal as a 'turning point' in the Syrian conflict

Press reactions to the US-Russia deal on Syria's chemical weapons range from cautious optimism to weary scepticism.

Some commentators are of the opinion that the agreement is at least a first step in the right direction, while others regard it as a cynical exercise in realpolitik.

Turning point?

The most positive view of the deal is taken by Russian commentators, several of whom claim it as a victory for President Vladimir Putin's stance in refusing to countenance military intervention.

Alexei Malashenko in the business daily Vedomosti considers the agreement to be a win for all those involved.

"Putin has won by delaying [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's] political death, Assad has won by showing willingness for dialogue and Obama has won by getting a perfect pretext to avoid military action," he declares.

An editorial in the heavyweight broadsheet Nezavisimaya Gazeta says that the deal has the potential to become a historic moment.

"The agreements will probably be described in the future as a turning point in the Syrian conflict... and mark a favourable change in Russia-US relations," the paper says.

Other Russian commentators warn that implementing the deal is unlikely to be plain sailing.

"Putin has carried the day, but Russia will have to do a lot to ensure the plan is implemented," Nikolai Zlobin says in Vedomosti.

Gennady Sysoyev, writing in the influential business daily Kommersant, goes even further, warning that Russia could find itself in a very difficult position if Syria fails to honour the terms of the agreement.

"The initiative sharply raises the stakes... Having sensed that Russia is interested in contacts with them, rogue states have repeatedly taken advantage of this" before turning their backs on Moscow later, Sysoyev says.

Value of diplomacy questioned

Comment in the Middle Eastern press is even more mixed.

Muhi al-Din al-Muhammad, writing in the Syrian government-owned paper Tishrin, declares his fellow countrymen to be "satisfied and optimistic" with the deal.

However, newspapers in Saudi Arabia - which has been a staunch opponent of President Assad - are less convinced of the value of the agreement.

An editorial in the Saudi pro-government paper Al-Watan warns that diplomatic efforts could strengthen the position of Mr Assad.

''Diplomacy will increase the savagery and the arrogance of the Syrian regime," it says.

The Oman Daily also feels that the US-Russia deal could deflect attention from the main issue.

"What matters more to Syrians is not the dismantling or the destruction of chemical weapons, which will take ages. The most pressing issue is the need to stop the killing."

In Israel, one commentator dismisses the agreement as merely easing the pressure on President Assad.

"A war criminal gets respite, and the whole world expresses satisfaction at the American-Russian agreement,'' Boaz Bismuth writes in the right-wing Yisrael Hayom.

However, the independent Israeli broadsheet Haaretz takes a more positive view of the deal.

''Imposing international supervision on chemical weapons in Syria and dismantling them later on will lift a direct threat to Israel,'' the paper says.

Hollande the hawk

In France, reaction to the deal highlights the more hawkish line being pursued by President Francois Hollande, who on Sunday reiterated his view that the threat of military action against Syria should remain.

"For him [President Hollande], it is firmness, notably that exercised by France, which will make the resolution of the crisis by the UN a realistic prospect," writes Alain Barluet in Le Figaro.

But at least one French commentator takes a favourable view of the US-Russia deal.

"With this agreement, Moscow has shown itself willing to shoulder its responsibilities on the international stage and thus draw a line under a foreign policy that for a long time was limited to systematically thwarting Western diplomats. This holds out promise for the future," Bernard Guetta writes in the left-wing paper Liberation.

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