Kerry, Lavrov to meet again tomorrow

GENEVA (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet again tomorrow in Geneva, as they lead an effort aimed at defusing the crisis in Syria.

Both diplomats made clear today that any prospects for re-starting peace negotiations will depend on first settling the standoff over the use of chemical weapons on civilians.

The U.S. has been seeking a U.N. resolution spelling out Bashar Assad’s agreement to turn over those weapons, including consequences if he doesn’t follow through.

But senior administration officials say Obama would be open to a resolution that does not include the threat of military force for failing to abide by the agreement.

The officials say Obama retains the authority to launch a strike, but Russia is expected to veto a resolution that includes a military trigger.

The officials also outlined for the first time a timetable for negotiations with Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons. The officials say they’ll know within a few weeks whether that effort has the necessary traction.

%@AP Links

271-v-36-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent)–Talks between the U.S. and Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile are said to be entering a crucial phase. AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports. (13 Sep 2013)

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273-c-22-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent)-”drag on indefinitely”-AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports for the first time, the administration’s putting a timeline on the effort to resolve the Syrian crisis diplomatically. (13 Sep 2013)

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272-c-22-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent)-”authority to strike”-AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports the administration sees the Geneva talks as reaching a “pivotal point.” (13 Sep 2013)

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GRAPHICSBANK: John Kerry (l), as US Secretary of State, and Sergey Lavrov (r), as Foreign Minister of Russia, Geneva, Switzerland, graphic element on gray (13 Sep 2013)

APPHOTO WX102: FILE – In this Sept. 10, 2013, photo, President Barack Obama addresses the nation in a live televised speech from the East Room of the White House in Washington. After two-and-a-half years of civil war, Obama’s larger Syria policy is in disarray even as his administration with help from Russia averted a military showdown for the time-being. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool) (10 Sep 2013)

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APPHOTO GE206: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with U.N. Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov watches during a news conference following their meeting at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. Kerry and Lavrov say the prospects for a resumption in the Syria peace process are riding on the outcome of their chemical weapons talks. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini) (13 Sep 2013)

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