FILE - In this April 1, 2012, file photo, then-U.S.Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks with an Arab official as she arrives to join foreign ministers from dozens of countries gathered to set conditions for a new Syria. After two-and-a-half years of civil war, President Barack Obamas larger Syria policy is in disarray even as his administration with help from Russia averted a military showdown for the time-being. Clinton believed she secures Russias commitment on a path forward in June 2012 with the “Geneva process.” Within hours of signing on to the strategy, the U.S. and Russia bicker over whether the agreement includes Assad relinquishing power. (AP Photo)
FILE - This Friday, June 10, 2011 file photo taken during a government organized tour for the media, shows Syrian army soldiers standing on their military trucks chanting slogans in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as they enter a village near the town of Jisr al-Shughour, north of Damascus, Syria. After two-and-a-half years of civil war, President Barack Obamas larger Syria policy is in disarray even as his administration with help from Russia averted a military showdown for the time-being. (AP Photo/File)
GENEVA — The top diplomats from the United States and Russia raised hopes Friday for reviving broad talks to end the long and deadly Syrian civil war, even as they struggled to deal with the most notorious part — the use of chemical weapons on civilians. The path to a U.N. resolution on securing those weapons seemed at least somewhat clearer, with the U.S. indicating it could accept an enforcement measure that didn’t threaten military retribution.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, leading talks in Geneva to defuse the crisis, both made clear that any prospects for restarting broad peace negotiations depended on first settling the standoff over the chemical weapons. They were to meet again today.
The U.S. has been seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution to solidify the turnover that Syrian President Bashar Assad has promised, including consequences if he doesn’t follow through.
Addressing a difficult sticking point, administration officials said Friday that President Barack Obama was open to a resolution that did not include military force as a punishment, given that Russia would be all but certain to veto any measure including such a penalty.
Even without a military trigger included in a U.N. resolution, the officials said Obama would retain the authority to order U.S. air strikes against Syria.
At the White House, Obama said any agreement to remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile “needs to be verifiable and enforceable.” As for possible U.N. action, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “We are not going to prejudge the outcome of negotiations that are just beginning in New York. The U.S. has been clear that for any effort to be credible it must be verifiable and include consequences for noncompliance.”