Kerry: Russian negotiation with Syria 'is not a joke'

Kerry's comments alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are a direct repudiation of Russian demands that the United States back off its threats. President Vladimir Putin reiterated that position in a New York Times op-ed Wednesday, writing that “we must stop using the language of force.”

“We are serious about engaging in substantive, meaningful negotiations even as our military maintains its current posture to keep up the pressure on the Assad regime,” Kerry said at a press conference in Geneva. “Only the credible threat of force — and the intervention of President Putin and Russia based on that — has brought the Assad regime to acknowledge for the first time that it even has chemical weapons.

“President Obama has made clear that, should diplomacy fail, force might be necessary to deter and degrade Assad's capacity to deliver these weapons.”

Kerry said the administration believes the Russian proposal can work but that it would be an “immense” challenge.

“It's too early to tell whether these efforts will succeed,” he said. “The technical challenges of trying to do this in the context of a civil war are obviously immense. But despite how difficult this is, with the collaboration of our experts — and only with the compliance of the Assad regime — we do believe there is a way to get this done.”

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