WASHINGTON, September 9 (RIA Novosti) – Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared Monday to give cautious support to an initiative to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, saying this would be an “important step” towards preventing their use in the future.
“If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control, as was suggested by Secretary (John) Kerry and the Russians, that would be an important step," Clinton said after meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.
Clinton, seen as a likely presidential candidate who remains one of the most influential public figures in the United States despite not currently holding any public office, warned however that pursuing such a plan should not delay international efforts to address the problem of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks.
And she called explicitly on Russia to join international efforts to resolve the problem.
“This cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction,” she said prior to delivering a speech on an unrelated topic to an audience in Washington. “And Russia has to support the international community’s efforts sincerely or be held to account.”
Obama administration officials have bitterly criticized Russia for blocking, together with China, US-led efforts to persuade the UN Security Council to endorse outside intervention to support opposition forces in Syria’s two-year-old civil war.
Russia, which has long-standing relations with Syria, has maintained that it is not the prerogative of foreign states to pick sides in internal national conflicts like that taking place in Syria and that any such intervention must be approved by the UN Security Council or else is illegal.
Obama has accused the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad of perpetrating an attack with chemical weapons on Aug. 21 and has called for US military intervention as a punishment. Russia says it thinks the chemical weapons attack in question was carried out by rebel forces to provoke US intervention.
The idea of placing Syrian chemical weapons stocks under international control was floated earlier Monday by Clinton’s successor, John Kerry. There was confusion in Washington, however, as the State Department called Kerry’s initiative only a “rhetorical” idea and seemed to discount it as a real plan.