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Kerry, Lavrov Discuss Syrian Crisis

Children walk along a damaged street filled with debris in the Damascus suburb of Zamalka on October 3.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have discussed the Syrian conflict on the sidelines of an Asian Pacific economic summit in Indonesia.

Kerry said the kick-off on October 6 of the process to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons was a "good start" and said the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be given credit for abiding by an agreement negotiated by Kerry and Lavrov last month.

Based on that agreement, the UN Security Council passed a resolution on September 28 that demands the eradication of Syria's chemical weapons and endorses a plan for a political transition in Damascus.

"And it's not insignificant that within days of the passing of this resolution in New York, inspectors are in Syria, they are on the ground, and now they are already proceeding to the destruction of chemical weapons; that actually began yesterday," Kerry told reporters in Bali on October 7. "There are missile warheads and other instruments that were destroyed yesterday."

Kerry said he and Lavrov agreed that a date for a Syrian peace conference should be set as soon as possible.

"We agreed again that there is no military solution there. We share an interest in not having radical extremists on either side of any kind assuming greater status or position in Syria, and that is why we recommitted today with very specific efforts to move the Geneva process as rapidly as possible," Kerry said.

Lavrov said Russia will do "everything" to ensure that Assad follows through with the UN resolution on destroying its chemical weapons.

A team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) supervised on October 6 as Syrian personnel used cutting torches and other tools to destroy or disable items, including missile warheads, aerial bombs, and mixing and filing equipment.

In a statement, the OPCW also said the process was to continue in the coming days.

In an interview in a state-run newspaper on October 6, Assad said the Syrian regime began producing chemical weapons in the 1980s to "fill the technical gap in the traditional weapons between Syria and Israel."

Syria agreed to eliminate its chemical weapons after Washington threatened military action to retaliate for a sarin gas attack on the suburbs of Damascus on August 21.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters