Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said that if the United States wants Syria to hand over its chemical weapons, it must first ditch efforts to strike Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
“Certainly, this is all reasonable, it will function and will work out, only if the U.S. and those who support it on this issue pledge to renounce the use of force,” Putin told Russia Today.
“It is difficult to make any country – Syria or any other country in the world – to unilaterally disarm if there is military action against it under consideration," he added.
Putin’s declaration comes after Syria accepted a Russian offer to turn over its chemical weapons to the international community, a bid by Assad to avert a military strike President Obama has called on Congress to authorize.
Putin said that he and Obama had discussed the prospect of disarming Syria’s chemical weapons on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia last week.
The United Nations will begin discussions about the proposed Syria-Russia deal Tuesday afternoon after the U.S. and other Western allies endorsed such talks.
Russia though has expressed doubts about a formal UN resolution on control of Syria’s chemical weapons, undermining U.S. support for the proposal.
Obama intends to go ahead with a national address Tuesday evening where he will make the case for a strike on Syria, even as his administration weighs whether Moscow and Damascus are serious about transferring Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
Putin’s comments, however, are likely to increase doubts about whether the United States and Russia can coalesce around a diplomatic solution on Syria.
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.