International

Kerry Says He Hopes Syria's Chemical Weapons Are Shipped Out Of Region

Secretary of State John Kerry flies over Afghanistan on Oct. 11. He met with President Hamid Karzai to work out an agreement on U.S. presence in the country. i i

Secretary of State John Kerry flies over Afghanistan on Oct. 11. He met with President Hamid Karzai to work out an agreement on U.S. presence in the country. Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of State John Kerry flies over Afghanistan on Oct. 11. He met with President Hamid Karzai to work out an agreement on U.S. presence in the country.

Secretary of State John Kerry flies over Afghanistan on Oct. 11. He met with President Hamid Karzai to work out an agreement on U.S. presence in the country.

Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images

Syria's chemical weapons could be consolidated and moved out of the country, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested in an interview with NPR.

Weapons inspectors are still in Syria assessing the country's stockpile and how to destroy it, in accordance with a United Nations Security Council resolution approved in September.

Asked by Morning Edition host Renee Montagne whether the agreement ensures that Syria's President Bashar Assad will remain in power, perhaps for many more months, Kerry replied:

"The fact is that these weapons can be removed whether Assad is there or not there because we know the locations, the locations have been declared, the locations are being secured. And my hope is that much of this material will be moved as rapidly [as] possibly into one location, and hopefully on a ship, and removed from the region."

Where such a ship would go is unclear, NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, and even the logistics of dealing with the weapons inside Syria are complicated.

"The Chemical Weapons Convention bars countries from moving their stockpiles — but in Syria's case, a U.N. resolution allows it and urges member states to help," Kelemen says.

Ralf Trapp, a consultant in chemical weapons disarmament, tells Kelemen that the idea of moving the material has been under discussion. However, he adds:

"It's a big, big logistical operation, and just doing this under peacetime conditions is not an easy job, so doing this under the conditions of Syria today is a challenge."

In an interview airing Thursday on Morning Edition, Kerry emphasized that the way forward in Syria would have to be diplomatic and that maintaining state institutions is key to future progress.

"There is no military solution. Absolutely not. There is only a continued rate of destruction and a creation of a humanitarian catastrophe for everybody in the region if the fighting continues," he said.

His remarks follow a two-week trip abroad, including two days in Kabul, where Kerry met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The leaders reached a deal on the terms of U.S. presence in Afghanistan after its combat mission ends.

"Everything that will be necessary to a successful agreement is in the agreement. We succeeded in defining exactly what the limits would be for American participation in the future," Kerry said.

But a council of public and tribal leaders, known as the loya jirga, still has to sign off on the issue of jurisdiction over American forces who would be stationed in Afghanistan.

"Needless to say, we are adamant it has to be the United States of America. That's the way it is everywhere else in the world," Kerry said. "And they have a choice: Either that's the way it is or there won't be any forces there of any kind."

The Washington Post took issue with Kerry's statement, noting that in the many places where U.S. troops are stationed abroad, agreements on criminal jurisdiction over those troops can vary.

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