Russia tells Syria to give up chemical weapons

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

Hagel meets with Russians
This photo, taken back in August 9 before the August 21 chemical attack in Syria’s capital of Damascus, shows US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu.

US President Barack Obama, who has struggled to win over support from both the American public and Congress for a strike against Syria, is considering an interesting proposal from the Russians.

While US Secretary of State John Kerry was making the rounds in Europe, meeting with the Arab League to plan an attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he made an offhand remark. During a stop in London, Kerry said that al-Assad could prevent an attack only if he were to “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.” He added, “He isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.”

However, Syria’s strongest ally, Russia, jumped on Kerry’s words. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, urged Syria’s government to hand over the chemical weapons. Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Moallem, said that he welcomes such a suggestion. “We are also confident in the wisdom of the Russian government, which is trying to prevent an American aggression against our people,” Moallem explained.

However, Obama is skeptical of Syria’s motivations, seeing its willingness to hand over weapons as just a delaying tactic to ease international pressure. “It’s certainly a positive development when the Russians and Syrians both make gestures towards dealing with these chemical weapons,” said Obama to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday. However, he’s going to keep the threat of American force handy, because “we don’t want just a stalling or delaying tactic to put off the pressure that we have on there right now.”

He is going to take it seriously, though, and said, “We’re going to run this to ground… and John Kerry and the rest of my national security team will engage with the Russians and the international community to see, can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious.”

Images courtesy of Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense on Flickr.