U.S. Allies Meet In Paris On Syria Plan

Sep 16, 2013
Originally published on September 22, 2013 7:26 am
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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


I'm David Greene. Good morning. A diplomatic deal between the United States and Russia addresses a crisis over Syria, but does not end that crisis. The two powers agreed that Syria should quickly surrender its chemical weapons.

INSKEEP: That leaves many questions unanswered. And today, some of them will be considered by the United Nations. The Security Council will discuss how to enforce the deal. They will also face the question of how - if at all - to punish Syria's past chemical weapons use.

GREENE: Last week, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said a U.N. report will find overwhelming evidence that chemical weapons were used. Several nations have a voice in what happens next, and Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris today, consulting with allies on next steps.

NPR's Michele Kelemen has been traveling with him.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The U.S. and Russia remain at odds over who carried out the chemical weapons attack near Damascus last month. But they did hammer out plans over the weekend for what Kerry is calling the most far-reaching chemical weapons removal effort. He says this framework, as he calls it, must now be put into effect by the United Nations.


KELEMEN: French president Francois Hollande says any Security Council resolution must be backed up by the threat of sanctions.


KELEMEN: Hollande told French television before meeting Kerry here in Paris, that the deal the U.S. and Russia agreed to is important, but not an endpoint on the whole matter.

France also wants to see Assad indicted by the International Criminal Court.

While Kerry works with his British and French counterparts to come up with a binding Security Council resolution, he says he's also working with urgency on ways to end the violence in Syria. The U.S., he told reporters Sunday, does not want to see the further rise of extremism or the implosion of Syria.


KELEMEN: Its not just Syrian rebels who are skeptical about this chemical weapons deal. Kerry went to Jerusalem Sunday to reassure Syria's neighbor, Israel, that the U.S. will keep up the pressure on Assad's government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Kerry cautious support.


KELEMEN: While Syria crossed the Obama administration's red line on chemical weapons, Netanyahu has his own red line when it comes to Iran's suspect nuclear program.


KELEMEN: Netanyahu says if diplomacy has any chance to work with Syria or with Iran, it must be coupled with a credible threat of force. Kerry says the U.S. is not taking that off the table.


KELEMEN: Kerry says if the international community can work as quickly as planned to gain control of and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, that will set a marker, as he put it, for the standard of behavior of rogue states. But U.S. officials admit this is an ambitious timetable. Syria is to declare what weapons it has within a week, and inspectors are due to get on the ground in November, all in the midst of a raging civil war.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.