Kerry hails weapons destruction
Updated: 2013-10-08 09:47
We appreciate the cooperation from Russia: US secretary of state
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad could take credit for quickly starting the process of destroying his government's chemical weapons arsenal, and thanked Russia for its help.
"The process has begun in record time and we are appreciative for the Russian cooperation and obviously for the Syrian compliance," he told reporters alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after talks in Indonesia.
"I think it's extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the (UN) resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were being destroyed," Kerry said.
"I think it's also a credit to the Assad regime for complying, frankly, as they are supposed to. We hope that will continue. I am not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road. But it's a good beginning and we should welcome a good beginning."
In less expansive comments on the latest developments, Lavrov said he was satisfied, and promised Russia will continue to ensure Assad's government completes the dismantling process.
"The Russian side will do everything so Damascus will follow the cooperation without any changes," Lavrov told reporters in Russian, with his comments translated into English.
Kerry emphasized the dismantling process has occurred in record time, and hailed it as a model for international cooperation.
"I think that was a terrific example of global cooperation, of multilateral efforts, to accomplish an accepted goal," he said.
The US and Russia meanwhile have agreed to press the UN to set a date for a Syria peace conference in the second week of November, Kerry said.
"We will urge a date be set as soon as possible," Kerry said with Lavrov.
Kerry characterized his meeting with Lavrov as "one of the most productive we have had", saying they spoke at length about ways to bring warring parties in Syria together for talks in Geneva, known as Geneva 2.
"We agreed again there is no military solution here and we share an interest in not having radical extremists on either side assuming a greater position in Syria, and that is why we recommitted today very specific efforts to move the Geneva process as rapidly as possible," Kerry said.
He said both sides will seek to lay the groundwork for a round of talks.
"It is our mutual hope that that can happen in November and we are both intent and determined in consultations with our friends in these efforts to try to make certain this can happen in November," Kerry said. "A final date and terms of participation will have to be determined by the UN," he added.
The destruction of the chemical weaponry arsenal follows an agreement hammered out between Washington and Moscow after a deadly Aug 21 chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, which prompted US threats of airstrikes against the Syrian government. The elimination of the chemical weapons is expected to continue until at least mid-2014.
More than 100,000 people have died in Syria's conflict, which began in early 2011.