WASHINGTON, October 7 (RIA Novosti) – The United States on Monday moved to clarify unusually positive remarks made by US Secretary of State John Kerry about Syrian President Bashar Assad as work begins to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
“No one is giving him any praise,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a briefing in Washington following Kerry’s comments Monday in Indonesia in which he described Syria’s hasty move to destroy its chemical arsenal as “a credit to the Assad regime.”
The US position that Assad cannot be part of a future government in Syria “has not changed,” Harf added.
“Our position on him is the same: that he has lost all legitimacy to lead Syria,” she said.
International experts began eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons on Sunday in accordance with a US-Russian plan to seize and destroy the stockpiles that was approved last month by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and supported by a UN Security Council resolution.
Kerry met Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali, Indonesia.
Addressing reporters after the meeting, Kerry said the United States is “very pleased with what has happened with respect” to Syria’s chemical weapons so far.
“I think it is extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were already being destroyed,” he said. “I think it’s also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly, as they are supposed to do. Now, we hope that will continue.”
US President Barack Obama’s administration accuses the Assad government of being behind an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that Washington says left more than 1,400 dead.
UN investigators issued a report last month confirming the use of sarin gas in the attack but did not specify who might be responsible.
President Vladimir Putin has said the Russian government has evidence showing the attack was likely carried out by Syrian rebels seeking to provoke outside military intervention against government forces. No specific evidence to support this claim has been made public.