Sat, Sep 14, 2013 - Page 6 News List

US, Russia work toward Syria peace deal in Geneva

DISARMAMENT:The UN said it welcomes Syria’s bid to join the global ban on chemical weapons, but did not confirm its acceptance

AFP, GENEVA

Washington and Moscow said yesterday they hoped talks on dismantling Syria’s chemical arsenal would open the door to wider peace efforts, as they held a second day of high-stakes meetings.

As the two met in Geneva, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov would meet again later this month — probably around Sept. 28 — to try to set a date for a long-delayed peace conference.

Washington and Moscow were “working hard to find common ground” to implement peace talks in Geneva that would bring together Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the opposition to negotiate a political solution to the conflict, Kerry said.

Much of the way forward “will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here in the next day, hours, days, on the subject of the chemical weapons,” Kerry told reporters after meeting with Lavrov and UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

Lavrov said he also hoped a “basically abandoned” peace plan first agreed in Geneva in June last year would be revived.

“We agreed to meet in New York on the margins of the [UN] General Assembly and see where we are, and what the Syrian parties think about it and do about it,” Lavrov said.

Washington and Moscow are hammering out the details of dismantling al-Assad’s chemical arsenal under a Russian plan that emerged this week.

The last-minute Russian initiative caused US President Barack Obama to back away from planned military strikes in response to a chemical attack that allegedly killed hundreds of people last month.

Al-Assad confirmed for the first time on Thursday that Syria planned to relinquish its chemical arms, and Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the global community to take him seriously.

“This confirms the serious intentions of our partners to go along this path,” Putin said at a security summit in Kyrgyzstan, adding that diplomatic efforts had reduced “an immediate threat of a military operation”

A statement from the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) said the group supported the Russian initiative and opposed any actions that could lead to a “further militarization” of the situation in Syria.

The SCO, whose members include Russia, China and several Central Asian states, is a regional security group sometimes seen as an eastern counterweight to NATO.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, whose country has observer status at the SCO, said Tehran also fully backed the Russian initiative.

Syria on Thursday filed documents at the UN seeking to join the international convention banning chemical weapons and said it now considers itself a full member.

While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the application, the UN would not immediately confirm it had been accepted.

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