President Barack Obama said on Monday that a military strike against Syria would “absolutely” be avoided if it follows a Russian proposal to surrender its chemical weapons stockpile.
Obama confirmed to ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer that the U.S. would withdraw plans for an attack “if, in fact, it happened. I consider this a modestly positive development,” adding that Secretary of State John Kerry would “run this plan to ground.”
According to ABC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov proposed on Monday that the Syrian government agree to give up its weapons stockpile to international authorities, prompting a response from Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem welcoming the idea “based on the concerns of the Russian leadership for the lives of our citizens and the security of our country.”
The U.S. has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government of using chemical weapons against his own countrymen, including children, and Obama’s administration has set out to win support both abroad and from U.S. lawmakers for an attack. ABC reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) delayed a Senate vote on the issue that was scheduled for Wednesday.
“What I’ve said specifically is, I want to make sure that that norm against use of chemical weapons is maintained. That’s in our national security interests,” Obama told Sawyer. “If we can do that without a military strike, that is overwhelmingly my preference. And now the key is, can we see — with a sense of urgency — language and a plan that is enforceable and verifiable through the international community that accomplishes that?”
Watch footage from Obama’s interview with Sawyer, posted by ABC News on Monday, below.