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US, Russia begin day 2 of crucial Syria talks

September 13, 2013 22:01 IST

Russia and the US began second round of negotiations on securing Syria's chemical arsenal, hoping the high-stakes talks would lead to broader peace efforts, even as Damascus submitted application to UN for joining the chemical weapons convention.

Heading into second day of hastily arranged talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the two sides were "deeply committed to a negotiated solution" to the Syrian conflict.

Hailing the first round as "constructive", Kerry said he and Lavrov were "working hard to find the common ground to be able to make that happen".

Both Washington and Moscow said they hoped talks on dismantling Syria's chemical arsenal would open the door to wider peace efforts. Talks between Kerry and Lavrov are focused on a four-step plan, which includes Syria joining the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The plan, proposed by Russia this week and supported by Syria's allies, is aimed at averting any US-led military strike against the embattled Assad regime, which the US holds responsible for killing over 1,000 civilians in an alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21.

The talks are meant to come up with a draft plan on how and when Syria will hand over its cache of chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, the United Nations today said it has received documents from Syrian government on joining the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws their production and use.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received a letter from the Government of Syria, informing him that President Bashar al-Assad has signed a legislative decree providing for accession of Syria to the Convention, a UN statement said.

In their letter, the Syrian authorities have expressed their commitment to observe the obligations entailed by the Convention even before its entry into force for Syria, said a spokesman of the Secretary General.

Ban welcomed this development, noting that, as depository of the Convention, he has long called for universal accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Kerry told reporters that US and Russia were "working hard to find common ground" to implement the Geneva II peace talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month which would bring together Assad's regime and the opposition to negotiate a political solution to end the conflict that has left over 100,000 people dead.

Much of the way forward "will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here in the next day, hours, days, on the subject of the chemical weapons," Kerry said after meeting Lavrov and the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva.

The Secretary of State said the two sides would meet again later this month -- probably around September 28 -- to try to set a date for a long-delayed peace conference.

Lavrov said he welcomed the chance to discuss the "longer term goal" of peace in Syria, and now that Syria has joined the Chemical Weapons Convention it is necessary "to design a road which would make sure that this issue is resolved quickly, professionally, as soon as is practical".

The US and Russia have sent large teams to Geneva that include weapons experts and diplomats. If the talks are successful, the US hopes the disarmament process will be agreed in a UN Security Council resolution.

However, Russia regards as unacceptable any resolution backed by military force, or a resolution that blames the Syrian government for chemical attacks.

Speaking at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's Heads of State Summit in Bishkek, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Syria's move to join the chemical weapons convention has proven its good faith and reaffirmed a warning to the US not to use force.

Putin said the move showed that Syria has "serious intentions to follow this path."

"I would like to voice hope that this will mark a serious step toward the settlement of the Syrian crisis," Putin said.

India also expressed deep concern over the conflict in Syria, saying world powers should not resort to any military intervention in that country.

"India is deeply concerned at the ongoing conflict in Syria and is closely watching the fast paced developments, “External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said in his address at the SCO summit.

Stressing against any external military intervention in Syria's affairs, Khurshid said: "We are encouraged by the current proposal, steered by Russia, that is aimed at bringing the Syrian chemical stockpile under international control."

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