GENEVA (AP) — The head of the U.N. chemical weapons inspection team said Friday that he had completed his report on Syria and would deliver it to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York this weekend.
Speaking by telephone from the Netherlands, Ake Sellstrom said that he didn't know exactly when the report would be released publicly.
Sellstrom confirmed that "it's done, but when to present it is up to the secretary-general."
He declined to comment on the report's conclusions.
Sellstrom's inspection team was charged with determining whether deadly agents were used in Syria, not who was responsible.
Also Friday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he believes there will be "an overwhelming report" from U.N. inspectors that chemical weapons were used in an attack in Syria on Aug. 21.
The U.N. chief also said that President Bashar Assad's regime "has committed many crimes against humanity."
The secretary-general thought his speech and response to questions from a women's group were not being broadcast, but they were shown on U.N. television.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that the prospects for a resumption in the Syria peace process were riding on the outcome of their chemical weapons talks.
Kerry, flanked by Lavrov and the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, told reporters at the U.N. in Geneva after an hourlong meeting that the chances for a second peace conference in Geneva “will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here ... on the subject of the chemical weapons.”
Brahimi also met privately with Kerry at a Geneva hotel Thursday to explore ways to resume international negotiations last held in Geneva in June 2012 aimed at ending the Syrian civil war.
Lavrov said it was “very unfortunate that for a long time that the Geneva communique was basically abandoned.”
Kerry and Lavrov said they would meet again in New York toward the end of the month to try to fix a date for second conference.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Syria's move to join an international convention banning chemical weapons has proven its good faith and reaffirmed a strong warning to the U.S. not to use force.
Speaking at a summit of an international security grouping dominated by Russia and China, Putin said the move showed that Syria has “serious intentions to follow this path.”
“I would like to voice hope that this will mark a serious step toward the settlement of the Syrian crisis,” Putin said.
Syria made a formal bid Thursday to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. The U.N. welcomed the move, but said that it could take 30 days for Syria to become a member.
Russia proposed Monday that Syria avoid a U.S. military strike by surrendering control over its chemical weapons to the international community for eventual dismantling. Damascus quickly jumped at the offer. Top U.S. and Russian diplomats are holding talks in Geneva to discuss the specifics.
Thursday, Kerry kept alive the threat of U.S. military action, saying after the first round of talks that the turnover of weapons must be complete, verifiable and timely — “and finally, there ought to consequences if it doesn't take place.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who took part in the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization alongside Putin, said Beijing backs the Russian initiative and is ready to help efforts aimed at a political settlement of the crisis in the U.N. Security Council.
Iran's President Hasan Rouhani also backed the Russian plan and said Tehran could help foster a dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.
Putin said that diplomatic efforts have “helped reduce the threat of a military action.” He emphasized that “any military intervention without the U.N. Security Council would be inadmissible.”
Russia, backed by China, has repeatedly used veto power at the Security Council to block Western resolutions calling for sanctions against Assad's regime.
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