Obama earlier in the day spoke to French President Francois Holland and British Prime Minster David Cameron about starting UN discussions on the Russian plan, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the US House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee in a hearing Tuesday.
Kerry said Obama would take a "hard look” at Russia’s proposal but warned that the Security Council should not be used as a stalling tactic as the United States considers military action against Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in the Damascus suburbs by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"If the United Nations Security Council seeks to be the vehicle to make it happen, that cannot be allowed to simply become a debating society,” Kerry said.
"We have to continue to show Syria, Russia and the world that we are not going to fall for stalling tactics,” Kerry added in opening remarks to the Armed Services Committee, where he was lobbying lawmakers to back punitive military action against Syria.
Tuesday’s hearing followed a whirlwind series of shifts in the Syria debate over the previous 24 hours after Kerry proposed in an apparent offhand comment Monday that a US strike against Syrian targets could be averted if Damascus put "every single bit” of its chemical weapons under international control by week’s end.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday announced that Moscow would push Syria to accept the proposal, and Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, in Moscow for talks, responded by saying that Damascus "welcomes” the Russian initiative.
On Tuesday, Muallem told NBC News in Moscow that he hoped acceptance of the "peaceful solution” would "put an end to the war.”
Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia would soon put forward a "workable” plan for placing Syrian chemical weapons under international control.
Kerry told the House committee Tuesday that he has told Lavrov in several conversations that the Russian plan "cannot be a process of delay,” adding that he is skeptical the Russians and Syrians can put something together quickly enough to satisfy the Americans.
"It has to be real, it has to be measurable, tangible, and it is exceedingly difficult … to fulfill those conditions,” Kerry told the lawmakers.
During his opening comments at the hearing, Kerry repeatedly criticized Moscow for shooting down US-backed Security Council resolutions over Syria, at one point referring to Russia as "Assad’s chief benefactor.”
He called on the committee to authorize punitive military action against Syria, saying this threat has driven Moscow and Damascus to tentatively support the move of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles to international control.
"A lot of people say nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging,” Kerry said. "Well, it’s the credible threat of force that has been on the table for these last weeks that has for the first time brought this regime to even acknowledge that they have a chemical weapons arsenal.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed this position in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday morning. "Before this morning, the Syrian government had never even acknowledged they possessed chemical weapons. Now they have,” Carney said.
Obama will make a nationally televised address Tuesday night about the Syrian situation.