Connect to share and comment

Kerry, Lavrov hopeful but words are 'simply not enough' on Syrian chemical weapons

Secretary of State Kerry discussed Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva, while Syrian President Assad confirmed plans to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control.

Syria russia chemical weapons kerry lavrov assad september 2013Enlarge
A picture shows a firetruck left amid heavily damaged buildings in the Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor on September 10, 2013. The United States is waiting to see a Russian proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons stock under international control, but will not wait for long, top diplomat John Kerry said. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

After a diplomatically tumultuous week, President Barack Obama said he was "hopeful" that Secretary of State John Kerry would have a productive meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.

Kerry met Lavrov in Geneva to discuss a proposal floated by the Russians for the Syrian government to turn over its chemical weapons to international control.

In remarks after the meeting, Kerry said he was hopeful that Russia and the United States could continue to work together to address the crisis in Syria diplomatically.

However, on the issue of chemical weapons, Kerry said, "The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough, which is why we've come here in order to work with the Russians."

Kerry rejected the timeline that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad put forward Thursday for releasing information on Syria's chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the chemical weapons convention.

Speaking at the press conference, Lavrov said a resolution to the issue of chemical weapons would deem a military strike by the United States unnecessary.

"I am hopeful that the discussions that Secretary Kerry has with Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as some of the other players in this can yield a concrete result and I know that he is going to be working very hard over the next several days over the possibilities there," Obama said earlier in the day, according to Politico.

Kerry was also set to meet United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva. In his remarks Thursday afternoon, Kerry said he and Lavrov are both working with Brahimi toward finding a political solution in Syria.

Watch Kerry's remarks, via Politico:

Meanwhile, Assad confirmed to Russian TV that Syria would place its chemical weapons under international control.

"Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision," he told Rossiya 24, according to the BBC.

"When we see that the United States truly desires stability in our region and stops threatening and seeking to invade, as well as stops arms supplies to terrorists then we can believe that we can follow through with the necessary processes," Assad said in the interview.

A spokesperson for the UN said it received documents from the Syrian government about joining the chemical weapons convention. Assad stated that Syria would release information about its chemical stockpile a month after signing the convention, calling it standard.

Late Thursday, Syria's UN envoy said the country had become a full member of the anti-chemical weapons treaty.

"Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the (chemical weapons) convention," Syrian UN envoy Bashar Ja'afari told reporters, according to Reuters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed in The New York Times on Wednesday, speaking directly to the American public against military strikes in Syria. Here is Putin's argument in eight points.

One of the points Putin made was that the alleged chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 — which spurred international outrage and calls for military action — could very well have been carried out by rebels to "provoke intervention."

The Pentagon responded to that claim Thursday, saying, "Russia is isolated and alone in blaming the opposition. We've seen no credible reporting that the opposition has used chemical weapons in Syria."

The White House echoed the Pentagon's response, calling Russia "isolated and alone" in that point-of-view.

Commenting on Putin's op-ed in The Times, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, "We're not surprised by President Putin's words."

Carney also repeated Kerry's sentiment that on the issue of chemical weapons, "Words don't count when it comes to the Assad regime. Actions count."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130912/obama-us-russia-talks-syria-chemical-weapons-assad