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WASHINGTON, September 13 (Itar-Tass) - The U.S. government described Russia’s proposals regarding Syria as “more substantive and more detailed” and expressed confidence that Moscow is committed to achieving “a strong, credible, and enforceable agreement” to identify, verify, secure, and ultimately destroy the chemical weapons stocks in Syria.
Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said at a press briefing on Thursday, September 12, that “for the first time in the last 48 hours the Russians have put on the table more substance, more to these ideas than they had, quite frankly, in the last two years.”
“They came forward with more substantive and more detailed ideas about how we could possibly move forward identifying and verifying the destruction of these weapons,” Harf said, speaking of Russia’s initiative to get Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles turned in to the international community.
When asked to comment on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s article in The New York Times, Harf said, “We expect President Putin and the Russians, including the team that’s in Geneva, to put forward actions now, not just words. And that’s why we’re in Geneva talking with them directly.”
She deputy spokesperson said “it would … be preposterous for anyone to suggest that anyone other than the Assad regime is responsible for the August 21st chemical weapons attack” in Damascus’ suburb.
The United States has published its intelligence data, Harf noted, adding, “We’ve laid out our intelligence assessment, and it’s one in which we have high confidence. So we stand by that. We’re going to be discussing all of this with the Russians. We’ll be talking with them about some of our assessments. Hopefully they’ll share with us some of theirs as well when we’re in Geneva over the next few days.”
Harf did not say whether Moscow and Washington were considering the new framework agreements, which were signed on June 14 to replace the expired Nunn-Lugar programme, one of the potential means of destroying chemical weapons in Syria or whether the U.S. was prepared to assist this process financially.
“I don’t have any details on that. Clearly, we and the Russians are talking about the variety of ways in which we might verify - identify these weapons, verify them, and ultimately destroy them. I don’t want to get ahead of that process. Clearly, we’re looking at a variety of different ways to do so,” she commented.
Harf made it clear that the Syrian government’s letter of accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention “would not be a substitute for the kind of action we’re talking about in Geneva.” When a journalist noted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Russian television that his government needed 30 days after the accession to transfer all information about the chemical weapons sites, Harf basically waved if off by saying “the people that are negotiating all of this right now in Geneva are us and the Russians.”
She also said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had had telephone conversations with Syrian Opposition Coalition President Jarba and Supreme Military Council General Idris ahead of the meetings in Geneva. “In both calls, the Secretary made clear that he was seeking tangible commitments, that the Russians are interested in achieving a strong, credible, and enforceable agreement to rapidly identify, verify, secure, and ultimately destroy Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile,” she said.
“He reiterated that President Obama’s threat of military action very much remains on the table, and that it is the only reason the Syrian regime has for the first time ever acknowledged its arsenal of chemical weapons, and announced its commitment to turn them over to international supervision,” Harf said.
Kerry emphasised that he would test this proposition in Geneva and that he began from a position of skepticism, but believed that it was an important process that he was undertaking. The secretary also underscored that the United States continued to stand with the Syrian Opposition.