The regime of Syrian president Bashar al Assad has hailed "victory" after the U.S. and Russia announced an agreement to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, which pushes back the likelihood of a military intervention, though one of Syria's rebel groups have said this allows Assad to go unpunished.
"We welcome these agreements," Syrian National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar shared with a Russian news agency, according to NPR.org. "On the one hand, they will help Syrians come out of the crisis, and on the other hand, they prevented the war against Syria by having removed a pretext for those who wanted to unleash it (war)."
"This is a victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends," Haidar added.
Assad's regime has been accused by U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders of using chemical weapons on civilians in August, which resulted in the deaths of 1,429 people, more than 400 of who were children. The Syrian government has blamed the attacks on rebels with which it has been engaged in a two-and-a-half year civil war, claims which have been backed by Russia who insist that the U.S. does not have solid evidence to prove that Assad should be held accountable.
Although Obama had been looking for approval from the U.S. Congress to launch an attack on Syria and take down Assad's regime, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke out strongly against such plans, and offered a deal in which Syria willingly gives up its chemical weapons. Reuters noted that one drawback for Assad in the deal is losing military advantage over the rebels, who remain determined to see an end to his leadership.
"You're looking at a re-legitimized regime here. Not just Assad but the whole entourage," said Ayham Kamel, an analyst at the Eurasia consultancy group. "For the foreseeable future the government of Syria has become the key interlocutor for the international community."
U.S. officials who accepted the deal are hoping that the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, which are estimated to be around 1,000 tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas and sarin, will be complete by the middle of 2014. Obama has not yet confirmed if this cancels all plans of military intervention in the region, however.
"We are at a very preliminary stage. Assad's partial cooperation was prompted by the desire to deter an attack," Kamel added. "It's not clear that (cooperation) will be there in the future".
One of Syria's leading rebel groups criticized the U.S.-Russia agreement, however, noting that it allows Assad to go unpunished for using chemical gas to kill civilians.
"Rebel Gen. Salim Idriss stated his objections soon after the Geneva announcement," NPR reported. "He heads the Supreme Military Council, rebels backed by the West and Gulf Arab states. He said the agreement, which includes U.N. inspectors on the ground by November, allows the Syrian president to escape responsibility for killing hundreds of civilians in an alleged gas attack in August."
Idriss added at a news conference in Turkey: "What about the murderer Bashar who gave the order? Should we forget him? We feel let down by the international community. We don't have any hope."