U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday that he was willing to try for a diplomatic solution on the Syrian crisis, but warned that military strikes were still an option.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov are holding discussions after the Kremlin’s initiative to strike a deal on removing and destroying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
“We need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons,” said Obama in his weekly address, according to AFP.
“And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of US military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime.”
The Russian initiative has meant that Obama has delayed plans for military response in response to last month’s chemical weapons attack outside Syria’s capital that killed hundreds.
“Any agreement needs to verify that the Assad regime and Russia are keeping their commitments: that means working to turn Syria’s chemical weapons over to international control and ultimately destroying them,” said Obama.
“This would allow us to achieve our goal - deterring the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, degrading their ability to use them, and making it clear to the world that we won’t tolerate their use.
“We’ll keep working with the international community to see that Assad gives up his chemical weapons so that they can be destroyed,” he said.
Obama said that there were “indications of progress,” after Assad’s regime acknowledged for the first time that it possessed chemical weapons.
The United States put the estimate of Syria’s weapons at 1,000 metro tonnes of chemical agents including mustard, sarin gas, sulfur and VX.
A senior U.S. administrative official said that Russian estimates had initially been far lower.