US Secretary of State John Kerry walks next to Russian
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) before their meeting in
Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the ongoing crisis in
Syria. REUTERS/Larry Downing
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov have opened talks on disarming Syria's
chemical weapons programmes, but differences emerged at the
outset of the expected two-day negotiations.
Kerry reiterated the US position that military force might be
needed against Syria if diplomacy over President Bashar
al-Assad's chemical weapons stockpile fails.
"President (Barack) Obama has made clear that should
diplomacy fail force might be necessary to deter and degrade
Assad's capacity to deliver these weapons," Kerry said, as
Lavrov looked on.
But Lavrov made it clear that Russia wants the United States
to set aside its military threats for now.
"We proceed from the fact that the solution of this problem
will make unnecessary any strike on the Syrian Arab
Republic," he said. "I am convinced that our American
colleagues, as President Obama stated, are firmly convinced
that we should follow peaceful way of resolution of conflict
As the US Congress debated military strikes as a response to
an Aug. 21 chemical attack on a suburb of Damascus, Russia
proposed that Syria instead agree to give up its chemical
Kerry made clear that Washington, while exploring the offer,
remains sceptical. And he pushed back on a reported offer
from the Syrian government, as part of a move to join the
Chemical Weapons Convention, to supply data on its chemical
arsenal within 30 days, the standard practice.
"We believe there is nothing standard about this process at
this moment because of the way the regime has behaved, not
only the existence of these weapons but they have been used,"
"Expectations are high. They are high for the United States,
perhaps even more so for Russia, to deliver on the promise of
this moment," Kerry said.
"This is not a game and I said that to my friend Sergei when
we talked about it initially. It has to be real. It has to be
comprehensive. It has to be verifiable. It has to be
credible. It has to be timely and implemented in a timely
fashion, and finally there ought to be consequences if it
doesn't take place."