Syria submitted an inventory of its chemical weapons to an international watchdog group on Friday, the first step in a process to that would protect it from military action by the United States.
The U.S. and Russia came to an agreement last week that would secure and eventually destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal after heated debates in the U.S. and abroad over whether to launch a strike against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons. The U.S. says that more than 1,400 people were killed by a government attack on August 21.
Now that the initial inventory has been turned over to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the next step will be inspections by United Nations chemical weapons inspectors. The agreement calls for those to begin no later than November.
Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, told NBC News, “I don’t want to prejudge the assessment of that document other than to say that it — that it’s here, and we’ll be taking a look at it.”
Progress in Syria comes as the United Nations General Assembly prepares to meet and as possibilities for diplomatic negotiations between Iran and the U.S. appear more likely than they have in decades. Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani and President Obama will both speak at the UN on Tuesday, and while Deputy National Security Advisor for communication Ben Rhodes told reporters Friday that there were no meetings between the two leader currently scheduled, the U.S. is open to negotiations. Iran has supported President Assad’s regime throughout Syria’s two year civil war.