U.S. agrees to work with Russia on U.N. resolution to transfer Syria’s chemical weapons to international control

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad interviewed by CBS News/PBS journalist Charlie Rose. SOURCE: Syrian Arab News Agency via Twitter

The United States is working with Russia today to negotiate a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring Syria to surrender its entire chemical weapons stockpile to international control for disposal. If a deal is reached and Syria agrees to comply, it could avert military strikes against Syria, which the United States is poised to commence pending congressional authorization. 

Read more: Russia supports U.S. call for Syria to turn over chemical weapons to international community for dismantling

The negotiation with Russia jumpstarted after Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in London that military strikes against Syria could be prevented if President Bashar al-Assad turns over “every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.”

In response to Kerry’s off-the-cuff remarks shortly thereafter, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov submitted a proposal to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem asking Syria to turn over its chemical weapons stocks to the international community; Moallem indicated support for the Russian proposal.

In an interview with ABC News, President Barack Obama said that military strikes would be on pause if Assad agrees to give up all his chemical weapons.

“If we can resolve this without military conflict, that is my great preference,” said Obama. “I don’t think that we would have gotten to this point unless we had maintained a credible possibility of a military strike and I don’t think now is the time for us to let up on that. I want to make sure that norm against the use of chemical weapons is maintained. That’s in our national security interest. If we can do that without a military strike, that is overwhelmingly my preference.”

Obama said although Russia and Syria will be given adequate time to work out a U.N. resolution, the United States will not “take pressure off” Assad’s government.

The Senate’s vote to authorize the use of military force – which was scheduled for Wednesday – has been postponed in light of the latest developments.

“The Senate should give these international discussions time to play out, but not unlimited time,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “If there is a realistic chance to secure Syria’s chemical weapons and prevent further atrocities by the Assad regime, we should not turn our backs on that chance.”

Reid emphasized that Syria must “quickly prove” that it is serious and sincere about accepting international control over its chemical weapons arsenal and that the announcements are “not merely a ploy to delay military action indefinitely.” 

Reid said that any agreement must ensure that Syria’s chemical weapons “can be viably secured, even in the midst of ongoing fighting” and prevent Syria from transferring the chemical weapons to terrorist groups.

President Barack Obama is still scheduled to deliver a televised address on Syria tonight at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST.

The chemical weapons attack in Ghouta on April 21st killed more than 1,400 civilians, including at least 400 children.


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