MOSCOW, February 11 (RIA Novosti) – It is Russia’s responsibility to ensure that the Syrian government complies with its international commitments on eliminating chemical weapons, the US president said Tuesday.
“Syria must meet its commitments, and Russia has a responsibility to ensure that Syria complies,” Barack Obama said at a joint news conference in Washington with his French counterpart, Francois Hollande.
The US authorities have earlier accused Syria of stalling on its obligations to get rid of its chemical weapon stockpile by June. Russia, however, is convinced that despite minor setbacks, the international disarmament effort is proceeding largely in line with the schedule, and the final deadline remains realistic.
Obama called the ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis in Syria “one of our highest national security priorities” and said that a military strike on Syria, averted last year, still remains a possibility.
“I’ve said throughout my presidency that I always reserve the right to exercise military action on behalf of America’s national security interests,” Obama said.
“Right now we don't think that there is a military solution per se to the problem, but the situation is fluid and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue to solve this problem,” he said.
Syria narrowly avoided US airstrikes after its government was accused last August of using chemical weapons against civilians. Syrian President Bashar Assad denied the allegation and blamed the attack on rebel forces fighting to overthrow his regime.
The situation was defused after Russia proposed instead to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapon arsenal under international control, a plan that is now in progress.
Obama also said that Russia should step up efforts to expedite the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution on the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
“Secretary [of State John] Kerry and others have delivered a very direct message to the Russians that they cannot say they are concerned about the well-being of the Syrian people when there are starving civilians,” Obama said.