Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told NBC News Tuesday that it would accept the Russian proposal to turn over its chemical weapons in order to avoid bearing the brunt of U.S. military action.
“We accept the Russian proposal which was offered to us yesterday, and we are ready to fulfill it according to the agreed plan between us and Russia,” al-Moallem said.
Bashar al-Assad, whose regime the Obama administration has accused of using chemical weapons against civilians in an attack last month, has denied having chemical weapons. Nevertheless, Assad said he felt “remorse” that more than 1,400 people were killed in the August 21st attack near Damascus.
Secretary of State John Kerry said in a hearing before the Armed Services Committee that he had spoken to Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, and that the U.S. would wait for a proposal. However, Kerry was reluctant to take strikes, which he said had been enough of a “credible threat of force” to compel a diplomatic solution, off the table.
“Nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging,” he said Tuesday.
President Barack Obama said he welcomed the possible “breakthrough” in the crisis in an interview with Savannah Guthrie Monday, but said that he remained skeptical of either Syria or Russia following through with the plan.
“I think what we’re seeing is that a credible threat of a military strike from the United States, supported potentially by a number of other countries around the world has given them pause and makes them consider whether or not they would make this move,” Obama said. “And if they do, then this could potentially be a significant breakthrough. But we have to be skeptical because this is not how we’ve seen them operate over the last couple a years.”
Obama said that he had discussed the diplomatic solution with Russian President Vladimir Putin during last week’s G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Al-Moallem said that “voices in the West,” including Great Britain and the United States, were obstructing a path to peace and indicated that Syria would work through the United Nations Agency of Chemical Weapons as a measure of good faith.
“We believe that when we accept this proposal, this means that we put an end to the war and we put our track in Syria on a peaceful solution,” he said.
NBC News’ Keir Simmons contributed reporting to this article.