Threat of US force against Syria 'remains real,' Kerry says

Threat of US force against Syria 'remains real,' Kerry says

JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Threat of US force against Syria remains real, Kerry says

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks to his car after arriving at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Sept. 15. AP photo

The threat of U.S. military action against Syria remains "real", Washington's top diplomat said on Sept. 15 a day after striking a deal with Russia to destroy Damascus's chemical weapons stockpile.

"The threat of force remains, the threat is real," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at a news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs." Kerry's remarks were made following a four-hour meeting with Netanyahu at which the two men discussed the U.S.-Russian agreement on eradicating Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons, and also talked about the ongoing Middle East peace talks.

"Make no mistake, we have taken no options off the table," Kerry warned after news of the deal appeared to stave off the threat of a US-led military strike on the Syrian regime after a chemical attack last month on a Damascus suburb. "The fact of weapons of mass destruction having being used against the people of their own state -- these are crimes against humanity and they cannot be tolerated," he said.

Under terms of the breakthrough deal struck in Geneva on Sept. 14 following three days of talks between Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has a week to hand over details of the quantity and location of all the chemical agents in its possession.

What is true for Syria, true for Iran: Netanyahu

Kerry described the Geneva understandings as a "framework, not a final agreement", but one which had "the full ability to be able to strip all the chemical weapons from Syria".

He described the agreement as "the most far-reaching chemical weapons removal effort" ever designed and one which stretched well beyond the scope of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.

But he acknowledged its full implementation was crucial. "This will only be as effective as its implementation will be." "Just removing the chemical weapons doesn't do the job, we understand that... but it is one step forward, and it eliminates that weapon from the arsenal of a man who has proven willing to do anything to his people to hold on to power."

Standing next to him, Netanyahu said stripping Syria of its chemical stockpile would make the entire region "a lot safer" although he was quick to draw parallels with the threat posed by a nuclear Iran.

"The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don't have weapons of mass destruction because, as we've learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction they will use them," he said.

"If diplomacy has any chance to work it must be coupled with a credible military threat," he said, referring directly to Iran and its nuclear programme, which Israel and much of the West believes is a front for developing a weapons capability. "Iran must understand the consequences of its continual defiance of the international community by its pursuit of nuclear weapons. "What is true of... Syria is true of Iran."