American military action against Syria remains a very “real” possibility, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerryon Sunday, one day after a deal with Russia was agreed to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stash.
“The threat of force remains, the threat is real,” said Kerry at a news conference in Jerusalem, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs.”
With recent speculation about U.S. hesitation, Washington has moved to emphasize that action has not been dismissed.
“Make no mistake, we have taken no options off the table,” warned Kerry.
“The fact of weapons of mass destruction having being used against the people of their own state - these are crimes against humanity and they cannot be tolerated,” he said.
Under terms of the breakthrough deal, struck in Geneva on Saturday, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has a week to hand over information regarding the quantity and location of all the chemical weapons in its possession.
The stockpile would then be turned over to international supervision and destroyed by mid-2014 in a deal which has won backing from China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
The accord was hailed as heading off a possible U.S.-led strike and unspecified sanctions.
Kerry described the Geneva understandings as a “framework, not a final agreement,” but one which had “the full ability to be able to strip all the chemical weapons from Syria.”
But he admitted that its full implementation was crucial.
“This will only be as effective as its implementation will be.”
“Just removing the chemical weapons doesn’t do the job, we understand that... but it is one step forward, and it eliminates that weapon from the arsenal of a man who has proven willing to do anything to his people to hold on to power.”
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that stripping Syria of its chemical stockpile would make the entire region “a lot safer.”
“The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don't have weapons of mass destruction because, as we've learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction they will use them,” he said.
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