US and allies seek UN resolution enforcing Syria deal

John Kerry and others say any peace talks with Assad regime must be backed by threat of military action

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, left, listen to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speak at a news conference after a meeting regarding Syria in Paris on Sept. 16.
Larry Downing/Reuters

The United States, Britain and France renewed a push Monday for a U.N. resolution aimed at enforcing a pledge by Syria to destroy or hand over its chemical weapons arsenal.

During talks in Paris on Monday, leaders from the U.S. and France insisted that a military response to the Aug. 21 poison-gas attack that killed hundreds remains on the table, and the countries are pressing for a U.N. resolution reflecting that.

"Each of us here today are here to emphasize the same thing -- that what we achieved in this agreement has to be translated into a U.N. resolution. It has to be strong, it has to forceful, it has to be real, it has to be transparent, it has to be timely -- all of those things are critical -- and it has to be enforced," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Regarding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Kerry added, "If the Assad regime believes that this is not enforceable and we are not serious, they will play games."

The U.S. and Russia have brokered an agreement between Syria and the international community that would avert the immediate threat of a military attack by the U.S. government.

The agreement calls for an inventory of Syria's chemical weapons program within one week, with all components of the program out of the country or destroyed by mid-2014.

The push for the resolution comes the same day that inspectors from the U.N. handed a report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ahead of Ban's Monday afternoon news conference, U.N. inspectors said there is "convincing evidence" that chemical weapons were used in the August attack. The head of the U.N. team investigating Syria is also probing 14 alleged chemical attacks since September 2011.

Regarding the sought after U.N. resolution, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there would be a major international meeting with leaders of the Syrian National Coalition, which represents rebel groups fighting to oust Assad, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week to discuss such a resolution.

Kerry and other leaders warned that if the agreement isn't implemented, military action was still an option.

"If Assad fails to comply ... we are all agreed -- and that includes Russia -- that there will be consequences," Kerry said before heading to meetings with leaders from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two of the strongest proponents for military action against Assad.

But Russia, a stalwart ally of Syria, seemed to want to temper the rhetoric used by Kerry and others.

At a press conference in Moscow on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the tough talk by Britain, France and the United States could wreck peace efforts.

"If for someone it is more important to constantly threaten ... that is another path to wrecking completely the chances (of peace talks)," Lavrov said.

He added, however, that he is "convinced that despite those announcements ... the American side will firmly adhere, as a normal negotiating partner, to what was reached" at talks with Russia in Geneva on Saturday and that the calls for a resolution authorizing force show a "lack of understanding" of the agreement reached.

Russia, along with China, wield veto power in the U.N. Security Council. The two countries have together vetoed three Security Council resolutions on Syria in the past two years.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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