Local congressmen support Syria talks

Local congressmen say they support negotiations between the U.S. and Russia regarding the potential elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva on Thursday to test the seriousness of a Russian proposal to secure Syria’s chemical weapons.

Kerry and a team of U.S. experts are meeting with their Russian counterparts again today. They hope to emerge with an outline of how some 1,000 tons of chemical weapons stocks and precursor materials as well as potential delivery systems can be safely inventoried and isolated under international control in an active war zone and then destroyed.

The agreement could be an alternative to a U.S. attack on Syria in response to Syrian forces’ apparent use of chemical weapons to gas to death more than 1,400 people last month near Damascus.

U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said he supports negotiations for disarmament.

“I was encouraged to hear the president talk of continued efforts on the diplomatic front, with Russia. In recent days, progress has been made on this front, and we can do much more. I will be continuing to make the case to my colleagues and the administration that we should remain on that track. Military intervention will make the situation worse, not better,” Gibson said.

Gibson, a veteran of the armed forces, said he is wary of “Americanizing the Syrian Civil War” and perhaps causing a bigger crisis.

Gibson said it’s important to take the weapons from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands, such as al-Qaida or other militant groups.

“I support the Russian’s policy, but we need to do more than that,” Gibson said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said he prefers the move to the negotiating table over an attack on Syria.

“First of all, I think many of us are happy there is a third alternative,” Owens said.

Owens said the weapons plan could work well, allowing the United States to be involved without using military force.

“I’ve been very reluctant to form an opinion [about military force],” Owens said. “I have not had all my questions answered.”

Owens said he may take a stronger position if Assad continues to use chemical weapons.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said he opposes the idea of military strikes against Syria.

“I’ve expressed some serious concern regarding airstrikes,” Tonko said.

He said with few allies supporting military strikes, America would be “going it alone” with military action.

Working with Russia to disarm Syria is a better alternative, Tonko said.

“I thought it was the right move,” Tonko said. “… At least diplomacy is still being reached to.”

Officials with Kerry said they would look for a rapid agreement on principles for the process with the Russians. The U.S. will demand a speedy accounting of the Syrian stockpiles.

Assad says Syria will start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpiles a month after signing an agreement banning such weapons.

Assad says this is the “standard process” and his country will follow it.

He made the comment in an interview with Russia’s Rossiya-24 TV.

Assad also said the process is “two-sided” and suggested it will only work if the United States halts its threats of military action against Syria.

The Associated?Press contributed to this report.