United States and Russia begin day 2 of Syria talks
New York/Geneva: The US and Russia on Friday began a second day of crucial talks on securing Syria's chemical arsenal, hoping the parleys would lead to broader peace efforts even as the UN said it had received Damascus' application for joining the chemical weapons convention.
Heading into discussions with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the two would meet again later this month — probably around September 28 — to try to set a date for a long-delayed peace conference.
He said the US and Russia were "deeply committed to a negotiated solution" to the Syrian conflict and he and Lavrov were "working hard to find the common ground to be able to make that happen".
Both Washington and Moscow said they hoped talks on dismantling Syria's chemical arsenal would open the door to wider peace efforts. Talks between Kerry and Lavrov are focussed on a four-step plan, which includes Syria joining the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The plan, proposed by Russia this week, is aimed at averting any US-led military strike against the embattled Assad regime, which the US holds responsible for killing over 1,000 civilians in an alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21.
The talks are meant to come up with a draft plan on how and when Syria will hand over its cache of chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said it has received documents from Syrian government on joining the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws their production and use.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received a letter from the Government of Syria, informing him that President Bashar al-Assad has signed a legislative decree providing for accession of Syria to the Convention, a UN statement said.
In the letter, Syrian authorities expressed their commitment to observe obligations entailed by the Convention even before its entry into force for Syria.
Kerry told reporters that US and Russia were "working hard to find common ground" to implement the Geneva II peace talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month which would bring together Assad's regime and the opposition to negotiate a political solution to the conflict that has reportedly claimed over 100,000 lives.
Much of the way forward "will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here in the next day, hours, days, on the subject of the chemical weapons," Kerry said after meeting Lavrov and the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva.