Russian diplomats have reportedly given the United States a proposal to put Syria's chemical-weapons stockpile under international control as U.S. and Russian officials prepare for a key meeting in Geneva.
An unnamed member of the Russian delegation told Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, "We handed over to the Americans a plan to place chemical weapons in Syria under international control, we expect to discuss it in Geneva."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to hold talks on the issue in Geneva on September 12 with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry also planned to meet UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi while there. Psaki said at least two days of U.S.-Russian talks are expected in Geneva, possibly more.
Faced with the threat of possible U.S. military strikes, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has accepted the Russian plan, which was first floated by Lavrov on September 9.
In Strasbourg, the EU's foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, told the European Parliament on September 11 that it should rest with the UN Security council to come up with decisive measures to end the Syrian conflict.
"We have consistently -- consistently -- emphasized the need for the efforts in the Security Council to come to fruition to try and effectively end this conflict," Ashton said.
"I say again that the role of the Security Council is crucial and irreplaceable but it does rely on the members of the Security Council taking their responsibility and it is deeply regrettable that they have not yet shouldered this responsibility with regard to this conflict."
Ashton's point was reinforced by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who told a UN meeting on preventing genocide that the "collective failure" to halt atrocities in Syria has become a new stain on the reputation of the world body and the Security Council powers.
Russia Rejects Resolution, Sanctions
Late on September 10, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem announced that Syria was "ready to inform about the location of chemical weapons, halt the production of chemical weapons, and show these objects to representatives of Russia, other states, and the United Nations."
But Russia has rejected U.S. and French demands for a binding UN resolution that includes "very severe consequences" for noncompliance with the plan to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control. Moscow also rejects putting the blame on the Syrian government for a gas attack near Damascus last month.
Speaking on France Inter radio, Russia's ambassador to France called the proposed resolution a "trap" aimed at opening the door to military intervention.
Aleksandr Orlov said the draft resolution should include a control mechanism but no sanctions "because now there is no point in using sanctions against a country that says it is ready to put its weapons under international control."
Asked whether sanctions might be imposed on Syria in the future, Orlov said that "If we see some time later that the Syrian government doesn't want to cooperate, then we will have to gather again [at the UN] and discuss which sanctions should be imposed."
U.S. 'Doesn't Do Pinpricks'
On September 10, U.S. President Barack Obama said Washington and its allies would give the weapons-handover proposal a chance, while keeping the military postured for possible strikes.
Washington threatened strikes after a gas attack it says killed more than 1,400 people last month. Obama blamed the regime and said the military would respond if talks failed.
"Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn't do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver," Obama said.
"I don't think we should remove another dictator with force. We learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next," he continued. "But a targeted strike can make Assad, or any other dictator, think twice before using chemical weapons."
Obama said it was "too early to tell" whether Moscow's plan to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control will succeed.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP