MOSCOW — A seemingly offhand suggestion by Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria could avert an American attack by relinquishing its chemical weapons received an almost immediate welcome from Syria, Russia, the United Nations, a key American ally and even some Republicans on Monday as a possible way to avoid a major international military showdown in the Syria crisis. A White House official said the administration was taking a “hard look” at the idea.
While there was no indication that Mr. Kerry was searching for a political settlement to the Syrian crisis in making his comment, Russia — the Syrian government’s most powerful supporter — seized on it as a way of proposing international control of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
The reactions appeared to reflect a broad international desire to de-escalate the atmosphere of impending confrontation even as President Obama was lobbying heavily at home to garner Congressional endorsement of a military strike.
Mr. Kerry’s suggestion — and the Russian and Syrian response — also seemed to represent the first possible point of agreement over how to address the chemical weapons issue that has threatened to turn the Syria conflict, now in its third year, into a regional war.
A top White House national security official, Tony Blinken, later suggested to reporters in Washington that the Obama administration was not dismissing such a possible solution.
“We’re going to take a hard look at this,” Mr. Blinken said. “We’ll talk to the Russians about it.”
Asked at a news conference in London if there were steps the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, could take to avoid an American-led attack, Mr. Kerry said, “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week — turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting.” He immediately dismissed the possibility that Mr. Assad would or could comply, saying: “But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done