Obama Presses for U.N. Resolution for Syria to Turn Over Chemical Weapons

President Barack Obama, Brady Press Room Briefing
National Journal
Elahe Izad and Stacy Kaper
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Elahe Izad Stacy Kaper
Sept. 10, 2013, 9:01 a.m.

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.”

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