But the announcement came just hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had rejected Assad’s earlier pledge to sign the agreement and begin submitting data on his chemical weapons one month later, in keeping with the usual practice under the pact. Kerry said the usual rules cannot apply to the current situation, and he demanded speedier compliance.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office said that it has received a letter from Syria’s government saying Assad has signed a legislative degree providing for accession to the 1992 Convention on the Prohibition, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.
The secretary general “welcomes this development” and “hopes that the current talks in Geneva will lead to speedy agreement on a way forward which will be endorsed and assisted by the international community,” Ban’s office said.
Hours earlier, at a news conference in Geneva after a meeting on the Syria situation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Kerry noted that Assad said a 30-day lead time after signing the agreement would be standard.
"There is nothing standard about this process," Kerry said, because Assad has used his chemical weapons. "The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough."
Kerry added, “Only the credible threat of force and the intervention of Putin and Russia … has brought the Syrian regime for the first time to acknowledge that it even has chemical weapons and will now relinquish them."
“Together we will test the commitment of Assad to follow through with his promises,” Kerry added.
He cautioned that a U.S. military strike could occur if Assad doesn't agree to dismantle his chemical arsenal properly.
"There ought to be consequences if it doesn't take place,” Kerry said.
Lavrov said the dismantling "will make unnecessary any strike against the Syrian Arab Republic."
Speaking ahead of the talks, President Barack Obama said: "I am hopeful that the discussions that Secretary Kerry has with Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as some of the other players in this can yield a concrete result, and I know that he is going to be working very hard over the next several days over the possibilities there.”
Kerry and Lavrov met in Geneva on Thursday with the aim of finding a diplomatic path to avoiding outside military intervention in the Syrian civil war. A senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press beforehand that the high-level meeting would be an exploratory session to gauge whether they can embark on "the herculean task" of dismantling Syria's chemical weapons while the country is in conflict.
Assad had earlier said in a Russian TV interview that Syria decided to cede control of its chemical weapons because of the Russian proposal and not the threat of U.S. military intervention, according to the Interfax news agency.
"Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia," Interfax quoted Assad as telling Russia's state-run Rossiya-24 channel. "The U.S. threats did not influence the decision."
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