|Syria to Come Clean on Chemical Arsenal|
|By KIRIT RADIA (@kiritradia) , DANA HUGHES (@dana_hughes) and DEVIN DWYER (@devindwyer)||Sep 10, 2013, 8:15 AM|
Syria abruptly said today that it would come clean and reveal the extent of its chemical arsenal, but stopped short of saying that it would turn them over to be destroyed -- the key element in a plan to avert a U.S. led military strike.
Secretary of State John Kerry quickly replied that he hoped Syria would "go further" and "live up to what they said just said they would do... help us in the next days working with Russia to work out the formula by which those weapons can be transferred to international control and destroyed."
"They need to show us an entirely verifiable, completely accountable and ongoing verifiable process," Kerry said.
The past two days have seen the usual plodding pace of diplomacy accelerated to the point that world leaders appear to have trouble keeping pace.
President Obama, who was originally scheduled to lobby Congress today for a military strike authorization, instead asked Congress for "more room" to see if diplomacy can avert a military strike, but not to undercut his authority to use force.
The diplomatic effort to avoid a military strike appeared to gain momentum when the Syrian foreign minister announced today that the country is willing to "declare" its chemical arsenal and join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Earlier today, the Obama administration said that it has begun discussing "elements of a potential U.N. Security Council resolution" on Syria's chemical weapons with other members of the international body, including China and Russia.
Kerry said today that he expects Russia to send some formal details of the chemical weapons plans to the U.S. today.
"We'll have an opportunity to review them, and as the president has said, if we can, in fact, secure all of the chemical weapons in Syria through this method, clearly, that's by far the most preferable, and it'd be a very significant achievement."
Kerry will travel on Thursday to Geneva to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in person to discuss the plan.
The day began with a series of morning phone calls between President Obama and two close allies, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, on how to secure a "viable" solution to neutralize Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles.
Russia on Monday floated a plan to disarm the Bashar al-Assad regime of its chemical agents. It was met with cautious optimism by the U.S. and other allies as a way to avert an imminent American military strike.
An early French proposal tabled at the Security Council this morning was dismissed by Russia as "unacceptable."
Instead, Russia plans to introduce its own draft resolution on the transfer of Syria's chemical weapons to international control and safeguard for their eventual destruction.
Putin said today that he believes the deal can successfully strip Syria of its chemical weapons, but only if the U.S. drops its threat of a military strike.
"Certainly, all this makes sense and can work only if we hear that the U.S. side and everyone who supports the U.S. in this sense drops the idea of using force," he said
"It is hard to make any country, be it Syria or any other country in the world, disarm unilaterally if some forcible action is being prepared against it," Putin said, according to Interfax.
The Russian president said Syria's chemical weapon stocks were a proliferation threat. Putin also suggested this may take a bit more time, saying: "We also believe that this is a serious matter that requires an additional and serious consideration."
"We will work together with the Syrians and with our American partners," he said.
Obama and Putin discussed the proposal when they met on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit Friday, according to the Kremlin.
Obama told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer Monday that if Syria were to turn over its chemical weapons, it would "absolutely" halt his plans to strike inside Syria.
Obama is scheduled to address the nation tonight to make his case to a skeptical nation about his plans to strike Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus Aug. 21. The United States says it has evidence that Syrian was behind the attack.
In light of the Russian proposal, the White House is reportedly changing what Obama plans to say in his address.