Kerry, Lavrov Outline Steps Syria Must Take
September 14, 2013
by VOA News
The United States and Russia have agreed on a plan for Syria to verify it is getting rid of chemical weapons that includes submitting a comprehensive list of such weapons in one week.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the plan during a joint news conference in Geneva Saturday, with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
"We have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons possessed by the Assad regime and we are committed to the rapid assumption of control by the international community of those weapons," he said.
Kerry said they agreed that Syria must provide the immediate right to inspect all such weapons sites, which he says will lead to the destruction of the weapons outside of Syria.
He also said that if Syria does not comply with the plan, they could request a U.N. Security Council "Chapter 7" resolution, which authorizes punitive action.
Lavrov said the deal does not include anything about potential use of force.
The agreement on the proposal followed three days of talks between the top diplomats and U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
The move could avert a U.S. military strike in retaliation for the Syrian government's alleged poison gas attack on civilians last month near Damascus.
The United States says it has confirmed that more than 1,400 people died in the attack, and that there is no doubt the Syrian military was responsible. The Assad government contends rebels carried out the gas attack.
The French News Agency, AFP, says a U.S. official told reporters in Geneva there were probably 45 sites in Syria linked to the regime's chemical weapons program.
France welcomed the deal. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called it a "significant step forward." France and the United States have been the main advocates of military strikes against Syria for the alleged chemical weapons attack.
In a Saturday statement, Fabius said he, Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague would discuss details of the plan during talks in Paris on Monday.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the plan, saying he hoped it would pave the way for a political solution to Syria's crisis.
However, the opposition Free Syrian Army rejected the plan. In Turkey, General Selim Idriss said the group did not trust Lavrov or Russian President Vladimir Putin and said the group would continue to fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Syria said Thursday it will join an international ban on chemical weapons, but says it will take a month to list all of its chemical weapons stockpile. Until this week, Syria had repeatedly denied possessing any chemical weapons.
President Assad has said he will only transfer his chemical weapons arsenal to international control if the U.S. drops its threat of military action against him.
Kerry will travel to Israel Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then to Paris for talks Monday with the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Saudi Arabia.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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