09/13/2013, 00.00
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Kerry, Lavrov, Brahimi: from chemical weapons to peace conference

The US Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister find "common ground", plan meetings to implement peace process. Syria agrees to sign the UN Convention on Chemical Weapons. For Assad, other nations must stop supplying chemical weapons to the rebels. The Syrian Opposition Coalition is "sceptical" about the Russian-Syrian plan.

Geneva (AsiaNews/Agencies) - US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to meet again towards the end of the month to fix the date of the long-awaited peace conference on Syria. Kerry and Lavrov are currently in Geneva to find ways to implement a Russian proposal to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control and then destroy it.

"We both agreed . . . to meet again in New York around the time of the UN General Assembly around the 28th (of September) in order to see if it is possible then to find a date for that conference," Kerry told reporters at a joint press briefing in Geneva with Lavrov.

UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been pressing the Security Council to get talks going and a ceasefire implemented among all the players in the Syria conflict, was present at the press conference.

This is a far cry from just a week ago, when a US military attack, backed by France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, seemed imminent following a chemical attack by Syrian forces on 21 August against Syrian civilians that went viral after rebels posted videos on the Internet.

The Syrian regime denied responsibility for the attack, blaming instead the rebels for trying to stop the peace process. In fact, the Geneva II Middle East Peace Conference was supposed to start at the end of August.

Lukewarm backing in Congress, Pope Francis's appeal for peace in St Peter's Square and limited international support led US President Barack Obama to have second thoughts.

When Russia suggested that Syria would place its chemical weapons arsenal under the international supervision, the threat of military action diminished considerably.

Although the US president had pledged that an attack would involve a "targeted, limited action", it would have inevitably led to a period of instability and war.

At present, Kerry and Lavrov are still looking for a viable solution to the problem of chemical weapons. Although nothing has been settled yet, some "common ground" for a political solution of the conflict appears to be emerging.

All this remains tentative. On Thursday, Syria said it would sign the global ban on chemical weapons, and would pass data on chemical weapons to the UN within 30 days, too long for Kerry.

For his part, President Assad told Russian TV that Syria would only "accept it if America stops military threats and if other countries supplying the rebels with chemical weapons also abide by the agreement."

Meanwhile, the Syrian Opposition Coalition remains "sceptical" about the Russian proposal and the regime's acceptance.

"Such a gesture comes as too little, too late to save civilians from the regime's murderous intent and is clearly an attempt to evade international action as well as accountability in front of the Syrian people," the umbrella group said in a statement.

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