The fate of hoped-for negotiations to end Syria’s civil war would hinge largely on the outcome of this week’s U.S.-Russian meeting to secure and eliminate chemical-warfare stocks held by Damascus, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Friday.
Kerry issued the remarks partway through the second day of talks on fleshing out a Russian plan to subject the Syrian chemical arsenal to outside monitoring and eventual destruction. The proposal emerged publicly this week as President Obama and his administration laid the rhetorical groundwork for launching military strikes on Syrian government targets over an alleged Aug. 21 nerve gas strike by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
Speaking alongside Kerry in Geneva, Switzerland, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asserted Assad’s government had signed onto an international chemical weapons ban. “We have to engage our professionals together with the [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] … [to] make sure that this issue is resolved quickly, professionally, as soon as practical,” Lavrov said.
Assad’s envoy to the United Nations said a submission of documents on Thursday had established Damascus as a “full member” of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Reuters reported.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, though, on Thursday indicated that the treaty had still not formally taken effect in Syria.
The U.N. chief “welcomes” a written confirmation that Assad had inked a “legislative decree” on joining the pact, his office said in a statement. “Syrian authorities have expressed their commitment to observe the obligations entailed by the convention even before its entry into force,” the released remarks state.
Assad’s regime as recently as last week reshuffled the placement of its chemical arms across dozens of facilities, U.S. and Middle Eastern government insiders told the Wall Street Journal for a Friday report. Israel and the United States are now less sure than a half a year ago about where the bulk of the agents are located, according to U.S. sources.
Former White House WMD czar Gary Samore said “Assad might make … a partial declaration of the chemical weapons he is willing to put under international control and keep a significant portion in his back pocket,” the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a Thursday news report says the United States might have included deaths from conventional arms in its count of people killed in the Aug. 21 strikes, legislative insiders told Reuters. Several experts noted that conventional “thermobaric weapons” can mimic certain chemical-weapons effects, Foreign Policy reported on Thursday.
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With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:
- An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clinton leading Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary Johnson at 7%.
- A McClatchy-Marist poll gave Clinton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way ballot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
- Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”
Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."
Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."