Kerry Team Pushes to Build on Syria Disarmament Plan

Global Security Newswire Staff
National Journal

Developing a thorough plan to eliminate the Syrian government’s chemical arms is the focus of arms-control experts accompanying U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for talks scheduled to start on Thursday with Russia, Reuters reported.

A high-level State Department insider said the two countries were expected to examine overlaps and distinctions in their respective intelligence on Syria's "chemical weapons stockpiles,... production facilities, precursor chemicals and [any] munitions that are used to spread those chemical weapons,” the New York Times reported.

Ensuring the safety of any chemical-arms monitors in the war-torn Middle Eastern country is one practical consideration that negotiators would consider in Geneva, Switzerland. Their discussions might continue through Saturday.

Moscow has sent Washington its proposal for handling the weapons, the London Telegraph said, citing Russian press reports from Wednesday.

A Russian diplomatic insider said the plan calls for Syria initially to accede to an international chemical-weapons ban, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported, according to the Telegraph. Damascus subsequently would disclose its chemical-arms manufacturing and holding sites, which auditors then would visit, the source added. A deal would follow to establish exact mechanisms for eliminating the stocks, the unnamed official said.

The Russian envoy suggested Washington and Moscow could jointly handle the Syrian arsenal under the auspices of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative.

"We have seen more cooperation and helpful activity on this matter from the Russians in the last two days than we’ve seen in the last two years," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a Wednesday press briefing. "The proposal they put forward is very specific; Syria’s reaction to it changes the position they’ve held for years and is a total about-face from the position Bashar [Assad] held three days ago. And that is significant."