US Secretary of State Kerry has met with the Arab League to discuss possible military intervention in Syria. The talks come as the White House tries to lock in approval at home and abroad for a strike against al-Assad.
Kerry and his counterpart from Qatar, Khaled al-Attiyah, told reporters in Paris on Sunday that Arab League foreign ministers had been briefed on the United States' proposal to intervene militarily in Syria.
"All of us agreed - not one dissenter - that Assad's deplorable use of chemical weapons, which we know killed hundreds of innocent people... crosses an international, global red line," Kerry said, referring to an August 21 attack in a suburb in Damascus, in which over 1,400 people were killed, according to US figures.
Twelve countries of the G20, which met outside of St. Petersburg this week for a two-day summit, have signed on to an agreement backing a US-led response.
Some Arab League nations had also expressed support for the agreement on Sunday, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Kerry said. He declined to name the other countries that now support taking action. It was not immediately clear if the expression of support extended to contributing to military action.
US not ruling out UN
The White House has said it will be ready to launch a strike against Damascus once Congress approves a resolution to allow a limited military intervention in Syria this week.
However, Kerry said on Sunday the US was considering France's proposal of seeking a resolution from the UN Security Council afterall. Such a move would require waiting for UN weapons inspectors to publish their results from their recent investigation.
"No decision has been made by the president," Kerry said, referring to France's decision.
UN Security Council permanent members Russia and China have repeatedly vetoed resolutions on Syria. Although the Syrian civil war, now in its third year, has claimed over 100,000 lives and has driven over four million refugees into neighboring countries, international leaders have remained reluctant to stage a military intervention.
In early 2013, the United Kingdom and France claimed they had proof of the deployment of chemical weapons in Syria. However, it was not until the August attack on civilians that the White House stated it planned to bypass the UN Security Council if necessary in order to stop Assad, whose regime it believes authorized the attack. The Syrian government has fiercely denied any involvement.
Israeli-Palestinian negotiators 'steadfast'
Kerry also used Sunday's meeting to update Arab League foreign ministers on progress made between Israeli and Palestinian representatives holding peace talks. The US has declined to release information from the ongoing negotiations, which resumed in late July after a three-year hiatus.
"Despite tough decisions that have to be made and despite pressure that exists on both sides…both the Palestinians and Israelis have remained steadfast in their commitment to continuing the talks," Kerry told reporters.
Sunday's meeting with the Arab League leaders was "almost as important as the negotiations themselves because the Arab League and Arab community's support for a final status agreement is essential to the achievement of that agreement," he added.
The US secretary of state is due to travel to London to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
kms/ccp (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)