A White House official said President Barack Obama has agreed to discussions at the United Nations Security Council on a proposal from Russia to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.
The official says Obama discussed the proposal Tuesday with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron. France’s foreign minister says France will float a resolution in the UN Security Council aimed at forcing Syria to make public its chemical weapons program, place it under international control and dismantle it.
Obama has said the proposal marks a potential breakthrough that could halt plans for a US military strike, though, he said, the details remain unclear.
Also Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the US sees the Russian proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control – and Syria’s acceptance of the proposal — as “potentially a positive development,” but warned that the Obama administration would press ahead for authorization of a strike.
“We see this as potentially a positive development,” said Carney on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday. “And we see it as a clear result of the pressure that has been put on Syria by the fact that the president has been moving forward and taking his proposal that we engage in limited strikes against Syria in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against a civilian population.”
However, he added that the US would go ahead with its efforts to get a strike approved and that Obama would still make the case to Congress.
“The president does believe that we need to take action in reaction to Syria’s blatant violation of this longstanding international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons,” said Carney.
Earlier Tuesday, Syria said it had accepted Russia’s proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent dismantling.
The moves are part of flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at averting Western military action. Speaking in Moscow, Syrian Foreign MInister Walid al-Moallem said his government quickly agreed to the plan to “thwart US aggression” — an allusion to possible US-led strikes in retaliation for a deadly August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus that Western powers blame on the Syrian regime. Syrian President Bashar Assad has denied the claim.
His statement sounded more definitive than his remarks Monday, when he said that Damascus welcomed Russia’s initiative.
Western officials have expressed caution about possible stalling tactics or efforts to wriggle out of international pressure by Assad’s regime in Syria, where more than 100,000 people have died in more than two years of civil war.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia was now working with Syria to prepare a detailed plan of action, which would be presented shortly.
Lavrov said that Russia would then be ready to finalize the plan together with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Obama said Monday the Russian proposal could be “potentially a significant breakthrough,” but he remained skeptical that Syria would follow through.
If Assad gave up control of his chemical weapons, Obama said, the crisis would be “absolutely” back from the brink. In a series of US TV interviews, he made plain that his goal was not to intervene militarily in Syria, but rather to put a stop to Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Obama said the idea for international supervision actually had been broached in his 20-minute meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week on the sidelines of an economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Obama said he directed US Secretary of State John Kerry to have more conversations with the Russians and “run this to ground.”
Also Tuesday, the Arab League chief expressed support for Russia’s proposal.
Nabil Elaraby told reporters that the Arab League has been always in favor of a “political resolution.” He added, “Thank God.”
The Arab League has blamed the Syrian government for the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus that killed hundreds of people and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. However, it didn’t support military action without UN consent.