US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were expected to discuss Moscow's plan for controlling Syria's chemical weapons arsenal at a meeting Thursday in Geneva, dpa reported.
Russia delivered the plan Wednesday to US officials ahead of the Geneva talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries, the Russian news agency Interfax reported, citing an unidentified Foreign Ministry official.
Kerry and Lavrov were likely to continue talks on Friday and perhaps into the weekend, diplomats in Geneva said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States will evaluate the Russian proposal's credibility, but Kerry already told Lavrov that the US is "not going to play games here."
Psaki said developments since Tuesday - when Damascus immediately agreed to a surprise Russian proposal to impound Syria's chemical weapons - had opened a door to resolve the crisis through negotiations.
"We don't think it will be easy, but we have the responsibility to pursue it," she said.
A team of experts will accompany Kerry to assess whether the Russian plan will meet US requirements for the final disposition of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons.
"Our goal here is to test the seriousness of this proposal, to talk about the specifics of how this would get done, what are the mechanics of identifying, verifying, securing and ultimately destroying the chemical weapons," she said.
Alongside negotiations with Russia, which is allied with al-Assad, Psaki noted "parallel tracks" including at the United Nations and in Congress, where Obama has sought authorization for an airstrike to punish the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons.
The US has accused al-Assad's regime of using chemical weapons in an attack on August 21 near Damascus. Washington says the death toll was 1,429 people, including more than 400 children. The Syrian government has denied responsibility.
At UN headquarters in New York, France proposed a resolution Wednesday in the Security Council that would give Syrian authorities 15 days to declare all their chemical weapon stockpiles for disposal soon after, according to a copy of the draft acquired by dpa.
"The Security Council ... decides that the Syrian authorities shall unconditionally destruct, remove or render harmless ... all chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents," the resolution states.
Before destroying the weapons, the resolution would demand that Syrian authorities allow the United Nations to investigate all chemical weapons declared and give access to further investigations into previous alleged uses of poisonous gas.
The resolution, which condemns the August 21 attack and attributes it to the Syrian government, states that if Syria fails to comply, the council would "adopt further necessary measures under Chapter VII."
In a speech Tuesday evening, Obama said the US would hold off on military action to give diplomatic efforts a chance and that it would give UN inspectors investigating last month's chemical weapons attack in Syria the opportunity to report their findings.
That report could be issued Monday, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Deutschlandfunk public radio Wednesday.
Asselborn appealed to the UN Security Council's five veto powers to reach a consensus on dealing with the Syrian conflict, which has raged for more than two years. Luxembourg holds a two-year seat on the Security Council.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Obama's decision to postpone the vote on military authorization.
Obama said in his address that it was too early tell if the Russian plan would succeed. He noted Russia's push for al-Assad to relinquish chemical weapons and Damascus' sudden willingness to join the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
However, Obama vowed to continue to rally support from allies on the need for military action against Syria.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that diplomacy "obviously will take some time," but it would be irresponsible not seek a diplomatic solution.
In a resolution approved nearly unanimously, the Russian Parliament on Wednesday praised Moscow's proposal and warned the US Congress not to approve a strike against Syria, saying military action might "risk nuclear and chemical contamination," civilian deaths and a humanitarian disaster.
The European Parliament is expected to vote on a Syria resolution Thursday. A UN panel, meanwhile, said Syrians were suffering from mounting human rights violations committed by all sides in the increasingly sectarian conflict.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria's war, according to the UN.
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