The Assad regime in Syria deserves credit for complying with the chemical weapons deal, US Secretary of State John Kerry said after the first high-level meeting with his Russian counterpart since Moscow and Washington agreed on the deal.
Kerry and Russian Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov met on the
sidelines of the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia on Monday
"The process has begun in record time and we are appreciative for the Russian co-operation and obviously for the Syrian compliance," Kerry said.
The Secretary of State also said that the US has agreed with
Russia to move towards Syria peace talks as soon as possible.
Lavrov stressed that Russia is satisfied with the process of
chemical weapons elimination in Syria, saying that over the last
two weeks “Damascus flawlessly cooperated with the
The two parties spoke after the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that they had begun eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons, with chemical experts in Syria destroying missile warheads, aerial bombs, and chemical mixing equipment on Sunday.
"I think it's extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday,
within a week of the (UN) resolution being passed, some chemical
weapons were being destroyed," Kerry stressed. "I think
it's a credit to the Assad regime, frankly. It's a good beginning
and we welcome a good beginning."
The UN team crossed into Damascus on Tuesday, tasked with dismantling Assad's estimated 1,000-ton chemical weapons stockpile.
Lavrov and Kerry both stated that they are in favor of holding the Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria in mid-November and have agreed to press the UN to set a date for the event.
“Today we agreed on steps that will need to be implemented in order to get the [Syrian] government and the opposition to the conference,” Lavrov told reporters.
"We will urge a date to be set as soon as possible," Kerry said.
Speaking of concerns surrounding the conference, Lavrov said
there are still indications that the extremists groups in the
Syrian opposition will attempt to undermine the negotiations
process. The minister said that he and Kerry “reiterated the
joint determination to aid in fighting terrorism and extremism in
Syria,” adding that the future of the secular, multiethnic,
multiconfessional Syrian state depends on this task.
Meanwhile, an official from the OPCW concurred that Syria had
made an "excellent" start to its chemical disarmament.
The official described Sunday's operations in which Syrian forces used disc grinders and cutting torches to render missile warheads and bombs unusable. The official said the process of disarmament would last until mid-2014, noting that cooperation from all sides would be needed in the work ahead.
"It was an excellent first day, with the stress on the word 'first'," the official told Reuters by telephone from Damascus, declining to be named.
Experts from the OPCW seek to oversee the destruction of Syria's
chemical weapons production and mixing equipment by November 1,
and deal with all chemical weapons materials by the end of June
"There are milestones and tests that lie ahead, and we hope
and expect to have continued cooperation of all parties to pass
those milestones," the official said.