Obama welcomes US, Russia deal on Syrian chemical weapons

Updated: 2013-09-15 03:35


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WASHINGTON, September 14  -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday welcomed a U.S.-Russian a framework agreement for eliminating Syrian chemical weapons, but warned that the country remains to act if diplomacy fails.

In a statement released by the White House, Obama welcomed the progress made between Washington and Moscow through talks in Geneva, Switzerland, saying that the deal represents "an important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria's chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed."

Obama stressed that the United States will continue working with Russia, the United Kingdom, France and the United Nations and others to ensure the process is "verifiable" and "there are consequences."

However, Obama also warned, "If diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act."

After three days of intense negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov reached agreement Saturday on a framework to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014 and impose UN penalties if the Bashar al-Assad government fails to comply.

According to the framework, Syria must submit a "comprehensive listing" of its chemical weapons stockpiles within one week, and weapons inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November.

The Obama administration has argued for weeks that the United States should launch military strikes against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons. But opposition from scores of lawmakers and the majority of the public complicated the issue for the president.

In a dramatic turn on Tuesday evening, Obama embraced a Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control and announced the meeting between Kerry and Lavrov.