By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry insisted on Tuesday that the U.S.-Russian agreement for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons must be backed by a U.N. resolution with the teeth to force compliance from President Bashar al-Assad.
"That will happen only with the United Nations passing a strong resolution. It will happen with the enforcement of the world, with Russia standing by us in this effort, and it will happen, finally, because Assad lives up to what he has agreed to do," Kerry told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.
"It is important that that threat of force stay on the table in order to guarantee the compliance of the Assad regime. So we will continue to press this issue," Kerry said.
Diplomats from the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China have launched negotiations on a resolution that would demand the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal in line with the U.S.-Russia deal.
One of the major sticking points at the United Nations is whether the resolution would be written so its provisions are under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which covers the Security Council's authority to enforce its decisions with measures such as sanctions or the use of force.
Russia has made clear it would veto an initial resolution under Chapter 7 and that any punitive measures would come only in the event of clearly proven Syrian non-compliance on the basis of a second Security Council resolution.
Kerry and other members of President Barack Obama's administration spent much of Tuesday filling in U.S. lawmakers on the latest developments in the civil war between Assad's government and rebels trying to oust him.
Kerry held a closed-door briefing on the Geneva talks with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of his aides, Wendy Sherman, spoke by telephone with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.