Russia on Tuesday expressed doubts about a formal United Nations resolution to force Syria to hand its chemical weapons over to the international community, even as the Obama administration began discussing the proposal with allies.
“As I understood, the Russians at this stage were not necessarily enthusiastic, and I'm using euphemism, to put all that into the framework of a U.N. binding resolution," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French lawmakers on Tuesday after have a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Reuters reported.
The Russian move, which could hamper efforts to broker a diplomatic solution to the international standoff with Syria, came a day after Moscow floated a plan to secure strongman Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons to avert a U.S. military strike.
That offer was quickly seized upon by President Obama and congressional lawmakers. Obama has been pressing for Congress to provide him with the authorization to attack Syria after Assad used chemical weapons in that country’s civil war, crossing the president’s “red line.” But many lawmakers and a majority of the public remain skeptical about his Syria policy.
Obama and surrogates talked up the Russian proposal on Tuesday, but the lack of UN involvement could undermine Washington’s support.
Earlier Tuesday, Obama signed off on discussions at the United Nations Security Council over the Russian proposal to transfer Syria’s chemical weapons to international control, a White House official told theWashington Examiner.
The president also discussed the proposal Tuesday with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“They agreed to work closely together, and in consultation with Russia and China, to explore seriously the viability of the Russian proposal to put all Syrian chemical weapons and related materials fully under international control in order to ensure their verifiable and enforceable destruction,” said the official.
But the Russian objections added to concerns that Assad’s regime would not be willing to follow through on the deal.
In testimony on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. is awaiting the Russian proposal but that it would not sit idly for long. Some administration officials and lawmakers fear that the Russian proposal is intended to delay U.S.-led action against Assad.
Obama will address the nation from the White House Tuesday evening to make his case for attacking Syria. He is also meeting Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill Tuesday over lunch to press for authorization of military, even as diplomats pursue discussions about a last-minute compromise, White House officials said.
If the deal falls apart, it could be embarrassing for the White House. Administration officials have been claiming credit for the Russia-Syria pact, saying it would have never materialized if Obama didn't threaten military action.