Efforts to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control began in Geneva on Thursday with top U.S. and Russian diplomats holding talks over Moscow’s four-step formula to avert any military intervention, even as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin issued a personal appeal to war-weary Americans over the looming crisis.
Talks in Geneva between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the four-step plan, which includes Syria joining the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, will last till Friday, and could be extended to Saturday.
The talks are meant to come up with a draft plan on how and when Syria will hand over its cache of chemical weapons.
The plan, offered by Moscow earlier this week, is aimed at averting any U.S.-led military strike against the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which the U.S. holds responsible for killing 1,500 civilians in a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on August 21.
While Russia’s Kommersant daily made public the details of the four-point plan, an article written by Mr Putin appeared simultaneously on The New York Times, in which he spoke “directly to the American people and their political leaders” on the Syrian issue.
Mr Putin -- in the article ‘A Plea for Caution From Russia’ -- warned the U.N. could suffer the same fate as its predecessor, the League of Nations, if “influential countries... take military action without Security Council authorisation“.
“The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the Pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders,” he wrote.
Mr Putin also reiterated Russia’s view that the August 21 attack was probably carried out by opposition forces “to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons“.
Outlining the main points of the proposal, Kommersant said as a first step, Syria would become a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Secondly, Syria will declare the location of the chemical weapons arsenals and where they are made. Thirdly, Syria will allow OPCW inspectors into the country to examine the weapons.
And finally, step would be deciding, in cooperation with the inspectors, how to destroy the weapons.