GENEVA: The United States and Russia were Saturday to hold a third day of complex talks, seeking to hammer out a deal on eliminating Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons, amid persistent differences.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon Friday meanwhile accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of crimes against humanity as the talks aimed at dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal hit a pivotal point.
During their second day of talks in Geneva on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov shuttled with their delegations in and out of talks, breaking up around 2:00 am to allow the weary delegations to catch a few hours sleep.
Teams of experts have been poring over a last-minute Russian initiative which led US President Barack Obama to back away from planned military strikes in response to an August chemical attack near Damascus, which Washington blames on the regime and says killed about 1,400 people.
At the United Nations, Ban lashed out at Assad and said a UN inspectors’ report into the incident would provide “overwhelming” confirmation that chemical weapons were used.
The Syrian leader President Bashar al-Assad had “carried out many crimes against humanity,” Ban said, and insisted there had to be “accountability” once Syria’s civil war is over.
The two sides “made progress in coming closer to agreement on the scope of the chemical weapons stockpile,” a senior US administration official said.
The US has estimated that Syria possesses around 1,000 metric tonnes of various chemical agents, including mustard and sarin gas, sulfur and VX.
The Russian estimates had been initially much lower, the official said, without giving a figure.