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Kerry: Syria peace prospects ride on weapons talks
"They are leaving the murderer and concentrating on the weapons he was using," he said of Assad. "It is like stabbing somebody with a knife then they take the knife away and he is free."
He spoke on the sidelines of a two-day opposition conference in Istanbul.
The talks were the latest in a rapidly moving series of events following the Aug. 21 gas attack on suburbs in Damascus. The U.S. blames Assad for the use of chemical weapons. Assad denies his government was involved and instead points to the rebels fighting a 2-year-old civil war against it.
President Barack Obama began trying to win support at home and abroad for a punitive military strike on Assad's forces, but put that effort on hold when the Syrian government expressed willingness to turn over weapons to international control.
Obama dispatched Kerry to Geneva to hammer out the details of the proposal even as he kept alive the possibility of U.S. military action.
U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday that the documents Syria submitted to join the international treaty banning chemical weapons were still being reviewed to determine whether they provide enough information. If accepted as complete, Syria would become a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention 30 days later, Haq said.
Syria's ambassador to the United Nations had said that as of Thursday when it submitted the documents his country had become a full member of the treaty, which requires destruction of all chemical weapons.
Assad, in an interview with Russia's Rossiya-24 TV, said his government would start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention. He also said the Russian proposal for securing the weapons could work only if the U.S. halted threats of military action.
At a meeting in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syria's efforts have demonstrated its good faith.
"I would like to voice hope that this will mark a serious step toward the settlement of the Syrian crisis," Putin said.