US-Russian talks on Syria chemical weapons deal enter third day

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Photo: Reuters
During their second day of talks in Geneva on Friday, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov shuttled with their delegations in and out of talks, breaking up after the midnight to allow the weary delegations to catch a few hours sleep.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, are meeting for a third day Saturday in Geneva for more talks on ending Syria\’s chemical weapons program.
Secretary of State Kerry has said talks with Russia\’s foreign minister Lavrov over Syria\’s chemical weapons have been constructive.
The two men began a second day of talks in Geneva by meeting UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Kerry and Lavrov met Brahimi at the UN headquarters in Geneva to discuss his attempts to keep efforts for a peace process on the table.
Kerry says he and Lavrov have agreed to do "homework" as part of a bid to get Syria\’s warring factions to a conference on a transitional government.
"We both agreed to do that homework and meet again in New York around the time of the U.N. General Assembly, around the 28th, in order to see if it is possible then to find a date for that conference."
Kerry said he hoped a date could be set for wider peace talks on Syria but that "much would depend" on progress on the chemical weapons issue.
The talks are expected to last until Saturday.
Lavrov said he welcomed the chance to discuss the "longer term goal" of peace in Syria, and that now Syria had joined the Chemical Weapons Convention it was necessary "to design a road which would make sure that this issue is resolved quickly, professionally, as soon as is practical".
The US and Russia have sent large teams to Geneva that include weapons experts as well as diplomats.
If the talks are successful, the US hopes the disarmament process will be agreed in a UN Security Council resolution.
However, Russia regards as unacceptable any resolution backed by military force, or a resolution that blames the Syrian government for chemical attacks.
Moscow has already objected to a draft resolution that would be enforced by Chapter VII of the UN charter, which would in effect sanction the use of force if Syria failed in its obligations.
Russia, supported by China, has blocked three previous draft UN resolutions condemning the Assad government.
The United States says more than 1,400 people were killed in the attack, which the U.S. says was carried out by the Syrian military. The Assad government blames rebels for carrying out the attack. 
President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday he will only finalize the deal to remove the chemical weapons if the U.S. stops threatening to attack.
Syria has joined an international chemical weapons ban, but insists it has one month to provide details on its chemical weapons stockpile. 
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday praised Syria\’s decision to join the global poison gas ban, saying it shows the "serious intentions" of the Syrian government toward resolving the conflict.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has heavily criticised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in unguarded comments made during a UN event.
Speaking about calls for Assad to leave power, he said it is for the people of Syria to decide. 
"What happened is that he has committed many crimes against humanity and therefore I am sure that there will be, surely, the process of accountability when everything is over." 
Ban said the international community must press for a political solution and that it is time for the parties to stop fighting and start talking.
He also expressed his predictions for the chemical weapons report on Syria, due to be presented to him in the coming days.
"I believe the report will be an overwhelming report that the chemical weapons was used," said Ban.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the UN refugee agency says about one third of Syria\’s pre-war population of 20.8 million have fled their homes, either to other countries or safer areas within Syria.
Source: Agencies

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