Syria conflict: John Kerry warns Bashar al-Assad has one week to hand over chemical weapons and avoid attack

Russia backs plans for the stockpile to be placed under international control and says it has put the idea to Syria, as the US Secretary of State speaks alongside William Hague in London

US Secretary of State John Kerry has declared that the only thing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could do to avoid a US military strike would be to hand over his entire arsenal of chemical weapons within the next week.

Renewing his country’s allegations that the dictator bombed his own people with weapons that have been outlawed by the international community for 100 years, Mr Kerry added that the regime “isn’t about to do that”.

Despite the apparent lack of faith Mr Kerry had in his own solution, it was immediately backed by the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

He called a news conference to announce that he had proposed the idea to the Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem at talks in Moscow, and added that as one of the country's closest allies Russia expected “a quick and, I hope, a positive answer.”

As President Barack Obama’s right-hand man in convincing the US Congress that an intervention in the Middle East is necessary, Mr Kerry appeared alongside William Hague at the Foreign Office in the conclusion of a tour aimed at gathering European support.

The Secretary said that he appreciated the concerns of British protesters outside the press conference calling for the US to “keep [its] hands off Syria”. But he said a political solution could only be sought after a military campaign had suitably chastened the Assad government.

He said: “A resolution will not be found on the military battlefield but at the negotiating table. But we have to get to that table.

“We come to this with years of effort to try to bring the parties to the table and create a political solution. Our respected leaders made clear in St Petersburg that a strong international response is needed to stop Assad using chemical weapons against his own people again.”

Mr Kerry passionately refuted Mr Assad’s claims, to be aired in a CBS interview this evening, that there is no evidence his regime conducted the alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus on 21 August.

“I just gave you real evidence of a chemical weapons attack,” he said. “I'm confident about the state of the evidence. Read the unclassified report on whitehouse.gov – what does he (Mr Assad) offer?

“This is a man who has just killed 1000 of his own citizens. He sends Scud missiles into schools. This is a man without credibility.”

In his first interview on American television for two years, Bashar al-Assad told CBS's Charlie Rose that the US could "expect every action" of retaliation if an air strike on Syria went ahead.

"Expect everything," he said when pressed on whether there would be attacks against US bases in the Middle East in response to an air strike. 

Mr Assad also said rejected John Kerry's claims that he had been responsible for using chemical weapons against his own people.

"He presented his confidence and he prevented his convictions," Mr Assad said. "It is not about confidence, it is about evidence.

Mr Assad compared Mr Kerry's accusations to the "big life" that he said Colin Powell had told in conjunction with the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The Syrian leader has refused to either confirm or deny the existence of a reportedly enormous stockpile of chemical weapons at his government’s disposal, but Mr Kerry said the US knew Mr Assad to have “a huge stock of these weapons, and these weapons remain”.

He said: “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week - turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting (of it) but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done.”

Mr Hague said the UK and US’s stances on Syria “remain closely aligned”.

He denied that Britain would be marginalised by the vote against military action in the Commons, speaking instead about the work Britain can do to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

And he said: “Our government supports the objective of ensuring there can be no impunity for the first use of chemical warfare in the 21st century. We admire the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Kerry himself in making this case so powerfully to the world.

“They have the full diplomatic support of the UK. The US-UK special relationship is an alliance of values... We will work [on Syria] with our closest ally over the weeks and months.”

On that topic of the “special relationship”, Mr Kerry said: “The relationship between the US and UK has often been described as special, essential, described thusly because it is.

“Our bond is bigger than one vote, bigger than one moment in history.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opening has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Join a worldwide leader in data-driven marketi...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn