Russia and U.S. reach 'common understanding' on eliminating Syria chemical weapons
Putin says follow meeting with Kerry that he believes experts would be able to accomplish their goal of ridding Syria of its chemical arms within a year.
Russia and the United States agree on how to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday after meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
"We have a common understanding of what needs to be done and how. I am very glad that President [Barack] Obama is occupying this position [on chemical arms]," Putin told reporters at the end of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.
International experts charged with starting the process of verifying and eliminating chemical weapons arrived in Syria earlier this month. Russia, Syria's long-time ally and arms supplier, has offered to assist with the demolition process.
Putin said he believed experts would be able to accomplish their goal of ridding Syria of its chemical arms within a year.
"We and the Americans, the whole international community trust them," he said. "If they are saying it is possible to do this [eliminate Syria's chemical arms] in one year, then that's the way it is."
The team of experts, supported by the United Nations, aim to oversee destruction of the Syria's chemical weapons production and mixing equipment by November 1, and deal with all chemical weapons materials by the end of June 2014.
Putin praised Syria for cooperation on the plan to destroy its chemical arsenal, a deal brokered by Moscow and Washington last month amid a possibility of U.S. military strikes against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
"The doubts regarding the readiness of the Syrian leadership to adequately respond to the decisions on chemical weapons proved to be unjustified," he said. "Syria has joined these efforts actively, is acting very transparently...and I hope this work will continue further at the same pace and in the same direction."
Relations between Washington and Moscow are strained by a number of issues, including remaining differences on Syria and Putin's record on human rights and democracy.
Russia has been a staunch supporter of Assad, whose fight against armed opposition groups has taken the lives of 100,000 people in more than two years. Moscow and Beijing have vetoed three UN resolutions intended to put pressure on Damascus.
Kerry met Monday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. He told reporters following that meeting that Washington and Moscow have agreed to press the United Nations to set a date for a Syria peace conference sometime in the second week of November.
"We will urge a date to be set as soon as possible," Kerry told reporters at a joint news conference with Lavrov.
Kerry also said that the start of the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria was a "good beginning" and, in unusual praise for Damascus, said Syria's government should be given credit for complying with a recent UN resolution to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.
"I am not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road but it is a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning," he added.
Also Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad told the German Der Spiegel that he would continue to cooperate with the United Nations inspectors dismantling his army's chemical weapons stockpile, but continued to deny that his troops had used such weapons against the Syrian people.
"We did not use chemical weapons," Assad told Der Spiegel, a day after the UN inspectors began destroying the stockpiles. "This is a misstatement. So is the picture you paint of me as a man who kills his own people."
The Syrian government would cooperate with the UN inspectors to every extent to prove this, Assad told Der Spiegel: "We're very transparent. The experts can go to every site. They are going to have all the data from our government."
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