Syria chemical weapons talks rekindle peace plan prospects

A last-minute proposal to get Syria to abandon its chemical weapons has rekindled prospects for a larger U.S.-Russian peace plan effort.

Secretary of State John Kerry announced the effort to bring together members of the Syrian government and rebel leaders to try to reach a political settlement after meeting with his Russian counterpart in May. Plans for the so-called “Geneva 2” talks were put on hold amid increasing violence over the summer but are now back on the front burner.

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“I will say on behalf of the United States that President Obama is deeply committed to a negotiated solution with respect to Syria, and we know that Russia is likewise,” Kerry said Friday after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva. “We are working hard to find the common ground to be able to make that happen, and we discussed some of the homework that we both need to do.”

He said the two would meet again on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly in New York at the end of the month “in order to see if it is possible then to find a date for that conference, much of which will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here in the next day, hours, days, on the subject of the chemical weapons.”

Lavrov endorsed the idea. 

“We are here basically to discuss the issue of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said. “But we are very glad to [U.N. special envoy] Lakhdar Brahimi for inviting us on this occasion to discuss a longer-term goal for Syria, namely the preparation for the conference which is called Geneva 2.”

“We are committed to try to work together, beginning with this initiative on the chemical weapons, in hopes that those efforts could pay off and bring peace and stability to a war-torn part of the world,” Lavrov said. “Thanks to John, who after becoming secretary of State, in spite of his huge workload on Arab-Israeli conflict, understood the importance of moving on Syria and doing something about this.”

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