Kerry Presses Security Council to Act on Syrian Arsenal

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

WASHINGTON -- Putting down a marker before his coming trip to the United Nations, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that it was essential for the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution next week to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal.

"Now the test comes," Mr. Kerry said. "The United Nations Security Council must be prepared to act next week."

When the United States and Russia reached a framework agreement on Saturday to remove or destroy Syria's chemicals weapons, Mr. Kerry emphasized that the next step was for the Council to pass a binding resolution to enforce the accord.

Since then, however, important differences between Russia and the United States have emerged that call into question whether the agreement will ever be carried out.

American, French and British officials have pushed for a strong Security Council resolution, which would provide a basis for imposing punitive measures if President Bashar al-Assad of Syria failed to comply. The United States and France have also said that the threat of force must be maintained to ensure that Mr. Assad follows through.

But Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has continued to assert that there is no proof the Assad government carried out a chemical attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, suggesting this week that additional investigation was needed before the Council could take any firm action. Russia has also rejected the potential use of force.

In the statement by Mr. Kerry on Thursday, which he read at the State Department, he insisted that the case against the Assad government was ironclad and had been buttressed by the recent United Nations report on the attack.

"Despite the efforts of some to suggest otherwise, thanks to this week's long-awaited U.N. report, the facts in Syria only grew clearer and the case only grew more compelling," Mr. Kerry said.

The secretary of state is scheduled to go to New York on Sunday for a week of meetings in conjunction with the convening of the United Nations General Assembly.

"We really don't have time today to pretend that anyone can have their own set of facts approaching the issue of chemical weapons in Syria," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr. Kerry met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, seeking support for a firm resolution in the Security Council.

In public remarks before a working lunch, Mr. Kerry noted that the United States and China had differed sharply over how strongly to respond to the chemical weapons attack. But he appealed to China to play a "positive, constructive, important role" in the Council's deliberations.

Mr. Wang said that China, which holds a Security Council veto, supported the framework agreement and believed that the United Nations should as well. But he did not provide any clues as to how firmly the resolution should be worded. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. also met with Mr. Wang.

As the United States and Russia sought to influence the Security Council resolution, a senior member of the Assad government said that a cease-fire should be imposed if peace talks were held to end the conflict.

"Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," Qadri Jamil, the Syrian deputy prime minister, said in an interview with The Guardian. "This zero balance of forces will not change for a while."

Mr. Kerry plans to meet next week with Mr. Lavrov and Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy on the Syria crisis, to discuss planning for a possible peace conference.

No date for a conference has been set, and Russia and the United States are at odds over who should attend. Russia, for example, has insisted that Iran should participate. The United States has opposed including Iran and said the "London 11," a group of European and Arab nations that support the Syrian opposition, should attend.

Even as he called for a peace conference, however, Mr. Jamil objected to proposals by the United States and its allies as to how it should be organized.

The United States has insisted that a Syrian opposition coalition led by Ahmad al-Jarba play a major role in negotiating a transfer of power to a transitional government from which Mr. Assad would be excluded.

"We're fed up with this monopolistic view," Mr. Jamil said.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here