The Syrian government has accepted a Russian offer to put its chemical weapons under international control, a concession meant to fend off a potential U.S-led military strike, Syria's foreign minister said on Tuesday.
“We held a very fruitful round of talks with [Russia] Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday, and he proposed an initiative relating to chemical weapons. And in the evening we agreed to the Russian initiative," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said in Moscow.
The foreign minister said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime accepted the offer to “uproot U.S. aggression.”
Russian officials say they are now working with Syria to put forward a concrete blueprint to be approved by the United Nations.
Earlier Tuesday, France said it would put before the United Nations Security Council a resolution that would force Assad’s regime to make its chemical weapons program public, place it under international control and dismantle the arsenal.
The developments come as President Obama is set to address the nation from the White House Tuesday to outline his Syria plan. His administration has been pushing for the authority to strike Syria, but the latest concessions offer a possible way for the White House to avoid another foreign entanglement unpopular with the American public.
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday said the president will still call for Congress to approve military force in Syria while expressing openness to a possible deal.
“We see this as potentially a positive development,” Carney told MSNBC on Tuesday, adding that the U.S. needs to “make sure the Syrians are serious" about giving up their chemical weapons.
The White House is attempting to take credit for the last-minute deal, as Carney and other administration officials say Syria would not have struck a pact with Russia had the U.S. not threatened to take action.
In a round of interviews on Monday, Obama said he would “absolutely” delay a strike against Syria if the Assad regime agreed to turn over its chemical weapons.
The U.S. charged Syria with using chemical weapons in an attack in an eastern suburb of Damascus that killed 1,400 people, including hundreds of children, last month. Assad’s regime and opposition forces have waged a brutal civil war, with thousands of civilian casualties.
For their part, the Syrian anti-government rebels are still urging the U.S. to attack Assad’s regime, saying that the deal stuck between Assad and the Russians “aims to procrastinate and will lead to more death and destruction of the Syrian people."