Kerry Continues Talks In Geneva, Tells Russia and Syria "This Is Not A Game"
Secretary of State John Kerry is not playing around.
On Thursday, Kerry rejected Syria's promise to begin a "standard process" for turning over information, without handing over weapons. "The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough. This is not a game," he said. "We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this moment because of the way the regime has behaved."
Kerry also had no problem reminding everyone that the possibility of a military strike is still on the table if an agreement about what to do with Syria's chemical weapons can't be reached very soon.
Precision in any attacks aimed at Syria's chemical weapons may be a bit more difficult. According to reports from the Wall Street Journal , an elite Syrian military unit called Unit 450 has been scattering the country's chemical arsenal, making weapons more difficult to pinpoint. That could greatly complicate a proposed strike or attempts to gather the country's chemical weapons under international control.
Kerry is currently in Geneva to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The two are supposed to be hashing out a plan that would include Syria giving up its weapons to international control in order for them to be dismantled, in exchange for the U.S. not pursuing a military strike.
The proposed deal came about after Russia latched onto comments by Secretary Kerry, stating that a military debacle in Syria could be avoided by handing over weapons. Russia then said that they would push their Syrian allies to hand over weapons, and Syria claimed to have accepted the proposal.
On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al Assad made a statement to Russian media saying, "Syria is handing over its chemical weapons under international supervision because of Russia. The U.S. threats did not influence the decision." (He added, contradictorily, that the chemical weapons will be handed over in one month — if the U.S. drops it's plans to strike Syria.)
On the second day of talks, the pair reaffirmed that the future of Syria peace talks rests on the success of a U.S.-Russia plan to secure Syria's chemical weapons. They also met with U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to discuss political implications and plan another Geneva conference.
Kerry told media that plans for a second Geneva conference would first require successful discussions about chemical weapons during the current conference. Kerry said that the conversation so far has been "constructive". "We are committed to try to work together, beginning with this initiative on the chemical weapons, in hopes that those efforts could pay off and bring peace and stability to a war-torn part of the world," he said.
According to reports, the United Nations will release findings Monday blaming Assad for a instigating a chemical attack against his own people.
You can watch a video of Kerry's awkward press conference with the Russian foreign minister here: