Syria vows to give up chemical weapons, no deal yet at U.N.
Syria accepted a Russian proposal on Tuesday to give up chemical weapons and win a reprieve from U.S. military strikes but serious differences emerged between Russia and the United States that could obstruct a U.N. resolution to seal a deal.
Even as the White House said it was determined to push ahead with a congressional resolution authorizing force, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the weapons plan would only succeed if Washington and its allies rule out military action.
In what amounted to the most explicit, high-level admission by Syria that it has chemical weapons, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said in a statement shown on Russian state television that Damascus was committed to the Russian initiative.
“We want to join the convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons. We are ready to observe our obligations in accordance with that convention, including providing all information about these weapons,” Moualem said.
“We are ready to declare the location of the chemical weapons, stop production of the chemical weapons, and show these (production) facilities to representatives of Russia and other United Nations member states,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington believes the proposal must be endorsed by the U.N. Security Council “in order to have the confidence that this has the force it ought to have.”
Moscow has previously vetoed three resolutions that would have condemned the Syrian government over the conflict.
The latest proposal “can work only if we hear that the American side and all those who support the United States in this sense reject the use of force,” Putin said in televised remarks.
Kerry and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress the threat of military action was critical to forcing Assad to bend on his chemical weapons.
“For this diplomatic option to have a chance of succeeding, the threat of a U.S. military action – the credible, real threat of U.S. military action – must continue,” Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee.
U.S. officials said Kerry would meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Thursday for further talks.
Amid the whirlwind of diplomatic activity focused on the response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on a Damascus neighborhood on August 21, the civil war resumed in earnest, President Bashar al-Assad’s jets again bombing rebel positions in the capital.
The United States and its allies remain skeptical about the Russian proposal and President Barack Obama sought to keep the pressure on Syria by maintaining his drive for congressional backing for a possible military strike while exploring a diplomatic alternative.