Kerry to Syria: This Is Not a Game
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear to Syria on Thursday that his country was serious about Syria giving up its stockpiles of chemical weapons.
"This is not a game," Kerry said during a meeting in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, quoted CNN.
He stressed that a U.S. threat to attack Syria for allegedly gassing its own people remained an option if the negotiations failed to prove Syria and its ally Russia were serious about the Syrian regime handing over its chemical weapons stockpiles.
Any agreement reached must be "comprehensive," "verifiable," "credible" and "able to be implemented in a timely fashion," Kerry said, adding that "there ought to be consequences if it doesn't take place."
Lavrov, speaking in Russian, called for following established rules and protocols in the process for Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and said that a solution "will make unnecessary" a military strike on Syria.
Earlier Thursday, Syria’s envoy to the United Nations announced that his country had become a full member of the global anti-chemical weapons treaty.
“Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the [chemical weapons] convention,” Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told reporters in New York after the relevant documents were submitted to the UN.
"With this, the chapter of the so-called chemical weapons should be ended," he added.
However, the challenge facing negotiators was made clear by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, who told Russian TV that his country would only agree to turn over control of its chemical weapons when the United States drops its threat to attack.
"This does not mean that Syria will sign these documents, carry out the conditions and that's it," Assad said, referring to the global convention against chemical weapons. "This bilateral process is based, first of all, on the United States stopping its policy of threatening Syria."
In the interview, Assad said joining the convention gives Syria a standard 30 days to provide information on its stockpiles to the international community. Kerry appeared to reject that in his opening remarks for the talks with Lavrov.
Referring to Assad's comment on the convention, Kerry said, "We believe there is nothing standard about this process" because of the August 21 chemical weapons attack in suburban Damascus that killed more than 1,400 people.
Reiterating the U.S. contention that Assad's regime was responsible, Kerry said "we have in no uncertain terms made it clear that we cannot allow that to happen again."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor voiced his pessimism over the Russian initiative through which Syria's Assad regime could comply with chemical weapons treaties as a way of avoiding western military intervention.
Palmor said that the existing 20-year-old Chemical Weapons Convention, which has been proposed as the tool for verifying Syrian compliance, has failed to attract the multilateral support that would allow it to work.