Moscow and Washington have been trying to hammer out a resolution wording to deal with the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. While talks at the UN were said to be constructive, major hurdles remain.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spent almost 90 minutes in talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, making only limited progress on how to enforce Syria's pledge on chemical weapons.
Officials said that key disagreements stood between the US and Russia when it came to the drafting of a resolution. The ambassadors of both countries to the UN are tasked with drafting the wording of a resolution on the issue.
"There were three or four key conceptual hurdles that had to be bridged," an official was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency. "The ministers did the conceptual work, I would say, and now that has to be turned into text."
Despite the disagreements, Kerry told reporters after the meeting that the session had been "very constructive."
Russia's opposition to any reference to the UN Charter's Chapter 7, which includes reference to military as well as non-military actions regarding enforcement, appears to be among the sticking points. Moscow says that any punitive measures invoking such actions should require a second resolution.
'Brazen use of chemical weapons'
Washington and Moscow agreed earlier this month to a deal that would call for Syria to give a full account of its chemical weapons program. The terms include the removal and destruction of all of Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014. As part of the agreement, Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, of which it was not previously a signatory.
Speaking earlier at the General Assembly, US President Barack Obama defended his threat of launching air strikes against Syria in response to the August 21 poison gas attack outside Damascus, which the US claims killed some 1,400 people.
"When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons, I did not do so lightly," he said.
"I did so because I believe it is in the security interest of the United States and in the interest of the world to meaningfully enforce a prohibition whose origins are older than the United Nations itself."
Russia and China have so far vetoed three UN resolutions that would have condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the government's actions during the two-and-a-half year conflict with rebels.
rc/ccp (AP, Reuters)