U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday it was essential that a Russia-U.S. deal on eradicating Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal be enforced and that the U.N. Security Council act on it next week when its members meet in New York.
“The Security Council must be prepared to act next week,” Kerry told reporters. “It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of enforceable action to rid the world of Syria’s chemical weapons.”
Envoys from the five big U.N. powers have been meeting in New York for several days to negotiate a draft resolution to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control.
Russia and the United States brokered the deal last week to avoid possible U.S. military strikes. Under the deal, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would account for his chemical weapons within a week and see them destroyed by the middle of next year.
Kerry said there was little doubt that the Aug. 21 gas attack on civilians outside Damascus was the work of Assad’s forces and not of the opposition.
Russia, which holds veto power in the Security Council, has said there is no proof that Assad’s forces were responsible and denounced findings in a U.N. report that confirmed that the nerve gas Sarin was used in the attack.
“We really don’t have time today to pretend that anyone can have their own set of facts approaching the issue of chemical weapons in Syria,” Kerry said. “This fight about Syria’s chemical weapons is not a game. It’s real. It’s important,” he added.
Earlier on Thursday, Kerry met his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, at the State Department where Syria was discussed.
He acknowledged differences between Washington and Beijing over how the international community should respond to the chemical weapons issue.
“With negotiations ongoing at the Security Council, we look forward to China playing a positive, constructive important role,” Kerry added.
Wang welcomed the recent U.S.-Russia deal, but said there needed to be a quick decision on how to proceed. “We believe that there needs to be early agreement … and at the same time, the Security Council of the United Nations also needs to recognize and support this decision,” he said. “Ultimately, the issue of Syria needs to be resolved through political means.”
Russia and China have blocked three U.N. resolutions meant to pressure Assad during Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people since 2011.