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Updated: Sun, 15 Sep 2013 07:12:45 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Syria weapons deal gets guarded response from Israel



U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, walks with U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli and Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk after arriving at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Kerry arrived in Israel for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a day after sealing a deal with Russia on securing Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. Kerry made a stop in Jerusalem to brief Netanyahu on the agreement as well as discuss developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (© AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, walks with U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli and Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk after arriving at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Kerry arrived in Israel for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a day after sealing a deal with Russia on securing Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. Kerry made a stop in Jerusalem to brief Netanyahu on the agreement as well as discuss developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool) The Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left his hotel in Geneva early on Sunday, heading for Jerusalem where he is expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a day after sealing a deal with Russia on securing Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.

Kerry will make a brief stop in Jerusalem on Sunday to brief Netanyahu on the agreement as well as discuss developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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Kerry met last week in London with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and had wanted to see both men before the annual United Nations General Assembly session that they are all expected to attend later this month.

From Jerusalem, Kerry travels to Paris for discussions about Syria on Monday with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

He will also see the Saudi foreign minister in Paris.

Kerry leaves Geneva after intense negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during which they reached an agreement on a framework to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014 and impose UN penalties if the government of President Bashar al-Assad fails to comply.

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Israeli leaders are expressing cautious hope about the U.S.-Russia agreement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel hoped the plan would lead to the "complete destruction" of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal and would push the world to stop Iran from nuclear weapons armament.

President Shimon Peres says the possibility of U.S. military action if the plan fails should "teach a lesson" to Iran.

Still, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio that the agreement's deadline was not speedy enough, and Syrian President Bashar Assad could try to hide weapons.

Avigdor Lieberman, chair of parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee, told Army Radio that Israel would compare its knowledge of Syria's weapons to the inventory Syria submits.

The diplomatic breakthrough on securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, following talks between U.S. and Russian diplomats at a Geneva hotel, has averted the threat of U.S. military action for now.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday praised the agreement as an "important step," but warned that if President Assad's regime does fulfill the requirements, "the United States remains prepared to act."

Russia and the U.S. are two permanent members on the UN Security Council. The other three permanent members -- Britain, France and China -- have all responded favourably to the agreement, while there has been no official response from the Syrian government.

The U.S. says Assad used chemical weapons in an Aug. 21 attack on the outskirts of Damascus, the capital, killing more than 1,400 civilians. That prompted the U.S. president American airstrikes on his order — until he decided last weekend to ask for authorization from the U.S. Congress.

Then came the Russian proposal, and Obama asked Congress, already largely opposed to military intervention, to delay a vote.

Canada's foreign minister John Baird is calling Syria's offer to begin providing information on its chemical arsenal 30 days after it signs an international convention banning such weapons "ridiculous and absurd."

Baird said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could not be given extra time.

Baird said: "This is a man, who up until a week ago denied that they had any such weapons."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who joined Baird at a news conference Saturday in Istanbul, also expressed skepticism, saying that Assad was playing for time while continuing to commit atrocities.

Baird was in Turkey primarily for business talks.

-Associated Press

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