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Russia deal opens door to end Syrian civil war, says Rep. Cummings

The U.S.-Russian deal to end Syria's chemical weapons program could be the diplomatic opening President Obama is seeking to end the bloody civil war in the Mideast country, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md) said Sunday. 

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The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the recent deal to disarm Syrian President Bashar Assad could set up the eventual endgame for the country's internal conflict.

With the issue of chemical weapons now temporarily off the table, "then [Washington] can begin to start dealing with other things" like ending the war in Syria, Cummings said on CNN's "State of the Union."

But Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) pushed back against Cummings's argument, saying the Russia deal will not lead to a peace deal in Syria.

"This does not solve the problem" of the Syrian civil war, Chaffetz said Sunday on CNN.

The Obama administration has "failed to deal with this" issue since the war began over two years ago, he said, adding that the deal between Washington and Russia will do little to reverse that course of action.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to begin shifting Assad's chemical weapons to international control, led by the United Nations.

Should Assad refuse to hand over control of those weapons, the U.N.'s Security Council would vote to authorize military action against Syria, according to details of the disarmament plan.

President Obama was prepared strike Assad's forces in response to the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons against the country's rebels, but opted to seek lawmakers' approval for action.

On Saturday, GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) slammed the Russia deal as "morally and strategically indefensible."

The deal "requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley, and the Obama Administration is being led into it," they said in a joint statement.

"It as an act of provocative weakness on America's part [and] we cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran" and other American adversaries, via the disarmament deal, they added.