Five UN security council members to discuss Syria plans
Obama postpones vote on Syria action to pursue diplomatic path
US president Barack Obama walks to a podium before a televised address at the White House in Washington DC. Photograph: Evan Vucci/Pool via Bloomberg
Envoys from the five permanent UN Security Council member states will meet in New York on Wednesday to discuss plans to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control, UN diplomats said.
US, French and British diplomats were meeting before then to continue discussions on a possible draft UN Security Council resolution.
An initial French draft called for giving the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad an ultimatum to give up its chemical arsenal or face punitive measures, a text that Russia has said is unacceptable.
Video: President Obama addresses the nation on Syria
Diplomats said there have been other drafts under discussion and an attempt was being made to come up with common language agreeable to all three Western powers. “I think we’ll come to an agreement,” a diplomat from one of the three told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Later, the French, Americans and British envoys will join Russian and Chinese diplomats for a meeting of all five veto-wielding council members.
“I understand they will be discussing general principles of plans to deal with Syria’s chemical weapons,” a diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “They (the full five) won’t really be discussing draft resolutions yet.”
The meeting comes a day before US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva to discuss ways of breaking the deadlock on the 15-nation Security Council over Syria.
On Tuesday night US president Barack Obama argued his case to the American people for military action against Syria but said he had asked Congress to postpone a vote on the use of force to pursue a “diplomatic path”.
In a televised address last night, Mr Obama outlined his argument for punishing Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons last month, but halted his push for military strikes to pursue a proposal from Russia, an ally of Syria, that international observers seize the regime’s chemical weapons.
The US president maintained the pressure on the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, saying that he had ordered the US military “to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails.”
“It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keep its commitments,” said the US president.
“But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical action without the use of force.”
Speaking from the White House in a 15-minute address, Mr Obama said he had resisted calls for military action against Syria but that the situation “profoundly changed” on August 21st when, he claimed, Assad’s forces gassed more than a thousand people, including hundreds of children.