By Dow Jones Business News, September 09, 2013, 07:15:00 AM EDT
Russia backed a demand by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria put its chemical weapons under international control and then destroy them-- a proposal that, according to Russian media reports, Syria said it welcomed, without saying whether it would comply.
Mr. Kerry said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government could prevent U.S. military action in response to what the U.S. said was a chemical-weapons attack on Aug. 21 by handing over its chemical weapons to the international community. Syria has denied using chemical weapons and blamed Syrian rebels for the attacks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin echoed that narrative on Friday, saying the attack was a provocation by the opposition to win international military aid.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia, one of the strongest supporters of the Assad regime, urged Syria to comply with Mr. Kerry's call.
"We are calling on the Syrian leadership not just to agree to put chemical-weapons stores under international control, but also to their subsequent destruction, as well as fully fledged accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention," Mr. Lavrov said.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem didn't provide any specifics, other than to say that Syria welcomed the Russian proposal.
"The Syrian Arab Republic welcomes the Russian initiative, motivated by the concerns of the Russian leadership for the lives of our citizens and the security of our country," Mr. Moallem told reporters in Moscow, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.
He said Syria's position on the proposal was motivated "out of our faith in the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is striving to prevent American aggression against our people."
Mr. Moallem didn't provide any further details of how soon Syria might agree to the Russian proposal or whether Damascus supported both turning over its chemica