The United States and Russia had floated the idea months ago of hosting a peace conference to bring together the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels trying to unseat him. The proposal went nowhere.
Kerry began the second day of hastily arranged disarmament talks by saying that the potential for reviving the peace conference option “will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here.”
So far, there is little evidence that the U.S. and Russian negotiators are making progress.
In New York, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that the Assad regime “has committed many crimes against humanity” and that he believes U.N. investigators will issue “an overwhelming report” showing that chemical weapons were used outside Damascus last month, the Associated Press reported.
Ban made the comments shortly before the chief chemical weapons inspector, Ake Sellstrom, said the report was complete and would be delivered to Ban this weekend. Ban thought his remarks to a women’s group were not being broadcast, but they were shown on U.N. television, AP said. It will be up to Ban to decide when to release the report publicly, Sellstrom told the news agency.
In his speech to the Women’s International Forum, Ban said the Syrian civil war has created “a lost generation of children and young people” and led to “rising sectarian tensions, regional instability, the largest displacements of people in a generation, grave violations of human rights, including sexual violence,” AP reported.
“The latest fighting has also raised the specter of chemical warfare, which, if confirmed by the U.N. investigation mission, would be an atrocious violation of international law,” Ban said.
Kerry warned Thursday that U.S. military forces remain poised to attack Syria if a credible agreement to make Syria give up one of the world’s largest stores of chemical weapons is not rapidly reached and implemented.
Assad added to the tension by telling a television interviewer that he is willing to place his arsenal under international control — but only if the United States stops threatening military action and arming rebel forces.
Assad said he is prepared to sign the international convention banning chemical weapons and would adhere to its “standard procedure” of handing over stockpile data a month later.
Kerry made clear that he had a much shorter time frame in mind and that Assad was not a party to the negotiations. “There is nothing ‘standard’ about this process,” Kerry said Thursday. “The words of the Syrian regime, in our judgment, are simply not enough.”