President Obama is now pressing for a United Nations resolution embracing the Russian proposal for Syria to disarm and turn over its chemical weapons to the international community, says Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, said the administration would prefer to see a peaceful resolution to the crisis. But he also said there is uncertainty about whether that can be achieved.
As a result, Kerry emphasized the White House has not decided to withdraw its request for congressional authorization for a possible military strike against Syria.
Kerry explained, "What has brought us to this discussion with the U.N. now is the potential use of force, and we don't want to take it off the table. It would be dangerous to do that. We could be sucked into something that may not have any capacity to be effective."
But Kerry confirmed that the president has now commenced efforts to get U.N. Security Council action on the international disarmament plan. He said Obama talked Tuesday morning with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Kerry said he himself had an earlier conversation with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. "And we talked about where we are with respect to the Russian proposal, and they agreed to work closely together in consultation with Russia and China to explore the viability of the Russian proposal and to put all of the Syrians' chemical weapons under the control of a verifiable …. [international] mechanism," said Kerry.
"And efforts are going to begin today on that," Kerry said.
Committee member Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., responded during the hearing to the news of talks beginning over such a potential Security Council resolution that, "I think there is broad support to try to make that happen." But he said he also agreed with Kerry's assessment that without a threat of a potential U.S. strike – "that will not happen."
Outside of the hearing, several senators confirmed their knowledge of such talks involving U.N. action. While they declined to give more specifics, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., offered that the Senate is trying to devise its Syria resolution in such a way as to be helpful to a process of prompting Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons without military action.
"There are signs of hope, but it's premature to latch onto those, with the Russians and the Syrians," Schumer said. "We're trying to have our resolution be helpful to that occurring, so that Syria can rid itself of chemical weapons without us engaging in military action. But it's premature to say anything could be done, we're just exploring... ."
On timing: " We're coordinating with the White House so that everyone's in sync."