President Barack Obama expressed hope Thursday that talks underway between high-level Russian and US envoys lead to a workable plan to strip Syria of its chemical weapons.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov were to meet in Geneva to discuss Moscow's proposal to destroy Bashar al-Assad's banned poison gas arsenal.
Washington has expressed caution about the plan, but Obama has agreed to put a threat of US-led military strikes against the Syrian regime on hold while officials study it.
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"John Kerry is overseas and meeting on the topic that we spent a lot of time on over the last several weeks, the situation in Syria and how we can make sure that chemical weapons are not used against innocent people," Obama said.
In brief remarks to his cabinet at the White House before reporters were ushered from the room, Obama expressed guarded optimism.
"I am hopeful that the discussions that Secretary Kerry has with Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as some of the other players in this can yield a concrete result and I know that he is going to be working very hard over the next several days over the possibilities there," he said.
Kerry and Lavrov were to meet later in the day, shortly after Assad confirmed that his government would surrender its chemical weapons under the Russian initiative.