Kerry tees up U.N. meeting on Syria: ‘Time is short’

Updated
Secretary of State John Kerry pauses as he listens to a journalist's question while he leaves the podium after making a statement about Syria and chemical...
Secretary of State John Kerry pauses as he listens to a journalist's question while he leaves the podium after making a statement about Syria and chemical...
Charles Dharapak/AP

Secretary of State John Kerry, whose call to action kicked off the administration’s campaign for U.S. intervention in Syria after a horrific chemical attack, laid out the case for a diplomatic solution ahead of next week’s United Nations summit.

“The [U.N.] Security Council must be prepared to act next week,” Kerry said Thursday in the State Department briefing room. “It is vital for the international community to stand up, speak out, in the strongest possible terms on the enforcement of action to rid the world of chemical weapons.”

He called on members to embrace a plan brokered by Russia to cede Syria’s chemical weapons to international control. Hours earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly expressed doubt over whether the plan would work.

Kerry also defended the findings of a recent U.N. report that pointed to the use of sarin gas via surface-to-surface rockets on Aug. 21. That attack, which American intelligence confirmed was perpetrated by the Assad regime, killed nearly 1,500 people, including more than 400 children. Though the Russian and Syrian governments maintain that the attack was the work of anti-government rebel forces, Kerry said the U.N. investigation, with its environmental samples and eyewitness testimony, corroborated U.S. intelligence.

“We the US have associated one of the munitions identified in the report with previous Assad regime attacks,” Kerry said. “There’s no indication, none, that the opposition is in possession or has launched a CW variant of these rockets used on the [Aug. 21 attack].”

He called on the international community to end debate over who launched the attack, using the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous phrase. “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

“I would say to the community of nations, time is short. Let’s not spend time debating what we already know. Instead, we have to recognize that the world is watching to see if we can avert military action and achieve [a peaceful solution].”

Kerry tees up U.N. meeting on Syria: 'Time is short'

Updated