Renewed push at UN for Syria resolution followed by peace talks
New York: US President Barack Obama appealed to the United Nations on Tuesday to back tough consequences for Syria if it refuses to give up chemical weapons and urged Russia and Iran to end their support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
At the same time, Obama said agreement on Syria`s chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort to end 2-1/2 years of civil war - a sentiment that was echoed by the leaders of Turkey, Jordan and France, among others.
"I do not believe that military action - by those within Syria, or by external powers - can achieve a lasting peace," Obama told world leaders at the UN General Assembly.
Obama stepped back from launching unilateral military action against Syria this month, setting in motion a diplomatic effort that led to Russian assistance in persuading Syria to agree to give up its chemical weapons after a poison gas attack on August 21 that US officials say killed more than 1,400 people.
In a bid to ensure Syria fulfills its promise, Obama`s challenge at the United Nations was to persuade world leaders to apply pressure on Damascus with a UN Security Council resolution that includes tough consequences should Assad not surrender his chemical weapons stockpiles in a verifiable way.
"The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles. Now, there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so," Obama said.
The worry from the US side is that Russia might veto any resolution that contains even an implicit threat of military force against Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Tuesday in an effort to agree on the wording of a resolution this week.
Negotiations on a draft in New York have come to a standstill while Russia and the United States struggle to reach an agreement that would be acceptable to both, diplomats say.
"We had a very constructive meeting," Kerry told reporters after meeting with Lavrov at the United Nations for about 90 minutes. "Very constructive."
Lavrov made no public comments after the meeting.
A senior US official said the UN envoys for the two countries would now need to do more work on the draft resolution.
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