A day after international inspectors began destroying Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Syrian government for complying with the U.N. Security Council so quickly.
Kerry said on Monday that it is “extremely significant” that the first weapons were destroyed a week after the Security Council passed a resolution.
“I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road, but it’s a good beginning. And we should welcome a good beginning,” said Kerry.
Kerry met on Monday in Indonesia with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said Russia – a Syrian ally – will do everything it can to ensure President Bashar al-Assad’s government cooperates.
Kerry told reporters both he and Lavrov agreed to meet with U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to urge a date be set for a Syrian peace conference in November. The diplomats have been trying for months to convene the conference, but the effort has been repeatedly delayed.
Brahimi urged Syria’s warring parties on Sunday to hold talks “without preconditions.” He said he hopes negotiations can take place in Geneva in late November. He also expressed frustration with the stalled peace process, acknowledging that he feels like resigning from his post.
The head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition has said the group is ready to attend the peace talks if they aim to establish a transitional government.
Other opposition voices, including rebels inside Syria, have said they are against talks as long as Assad remains in power.
Experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations are supervising the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and production facilities.
Authorities said Syrian personnel on Sunday began dismantling a range of items, including “missile warheads, aerial bombs, and mixing and filling equipment.”
The mission is expected to continue until at least the middle of next year.
Syrian President Assad said last month he would comply with the operation.
Developed during the 1980s and 1990s, Syria’s chemical arsenal is believed to contain mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin, VX and tabun.