The Syrian government accepts a Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control, according to Russia\’s Interfax news agency.
"We held a very fruitful round of talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday, and he proposed an initiative relating to chemical weapons. And in the evening we agreed to the Russian initiative," Interfax quoted Foreign minister Walid al-Muallem as telling the speaker of Russia\’s lower house parliament house in Moscow on Tuesday.
He said Syria had agreed because this would "remove the grounds for American aggression," the report said.
The diplomatic push over Syria\’s chemicals weapons gathered momentum on Tuesday, a day after the Russian foreign minister suggested the measure for averting US plans for a military strike against Syria.
France on Tuesday said it would start the process for a new UN Security Council resolution, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which is militarily enforceable.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the resolution would propose putting any Syrian chemical weapons under international control before moving to dismantle it.
Fabius said the resolution, based around five points, would demand that Syria "bring fully to light\’\’ its chemical weapons programme. The measure would also set up international inspections and controls of the dismantling process, and would carry "very serious consequences\’\’ if the commitment were violated.
U.S. President Barack Obama says he overwhelmingly prefers to use diplomacy rather than a military strike to make sure the Syrian government\’s use of chemical weapons never happens again, adding that a new Russian proposal to put Syria\’s chemical weapons stockpile under international control to avoid a U.S. military strike could be a potential breakthrough.
In a series of television interviews Monday, Obama expressed skepticism about a new Russian proposal to put Syria\’s chemical weapons stockpile under international control, but called the plan a potential breakthrough. He said it would not have materialized without the threat of military action.
Obama is continuing meetings with members of Congress on Tuesday before giving an evening televised address on the situation in Syria.
He acknowledged Monday there may not be enough support among lawmakers to pass a proposed measure authorizing U.S. military action. A Senate resolution would give Obama a maximum of 90 days to carry out an attack, but would not authorize the use of ground troops.
The Senate was due to hold a preliminary vote on Wednesday, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed the vote late Monday to give more time to consider the new Russian proposal.
Obama also noted that a majority of Americans do not want the U.S. to take military action, but he said he believes it is a matter of national security to ensure that bans against the use of chemical weapons are maintained.
It began with Secretery of State John Kerry saying, in response to a reporter\’s question, that there would be no need for military action if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad handed over his chemical weapons – an answer that was then presented by Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, as a workable plan.
The US administration at first stated that Kerry\’s response was only rhetorical, but within hours the president said in interviews with six US networks that a diplomatic solution should be sought.
Obama said on CNN that the Russian plan was "a potentially positive development", while on NBC he said it could be a "significant breakthrough".
He told PBS: "I have instructed John Kerry to talk directly to the Russians and run this to ground and if we can exhaust these diplomatic efforts and come up with a formula that gives the international community a verifiable enforceable mechanism to deal with these chemical weapons in Syria then I\’m all for it."
Iran and China also welcomed the Russian proposal on Tuesday.
"As long as it is a proposal that helps ameliorate the current tense situation in Syria, is beneficial to maintaining
peace and stability in Syria and the region, and is beneficial to a political resolution, the international community ought to give it positive consideration," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
The Arab League chief added his voice on Tuesday and also expressed support for the proposal.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also has endorsed the idea.
Nabil Elaraby told reporters that the Arab League has always been in favour of a "political resolution."
Israel, however, voiced skepticism about the plan with President Shimon Peres warning on Monday that negotiations would be "tough\’\’ and that Syria is "not trustworthy.\’\’
Avigdor Lieberman, who chairs the parliament\’s foreign affairs and defence committee, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that Syria could use the idea to stall military action.
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.