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Obama On Syria Deal With Russia: 'If Diplomacy Fails, The United States Remains Prepared To Act'

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Hours after Secretary of State John Kerry announced an agreement between the U.S. and Russia on the framework for handling Syria's chemical weapons, President Barack Obama said he welcomes the progress.

In a statement released by the White House Saturday, Obama called the deal an "opportunity" to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpile in a "transparent, expeditious, and verifiable manner." In the days leading up to Saturday's announcement Obama had stressed that the talks must produce a "verifiable and enforceable" solution.

Obama added that "if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act." The Pentagon said on Saturday that U.S. military forces are still positioned for possible strikes, according to Reuters.

"We haven't made any changes to our force posture to this point," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement. "The credible threat of military force has been key to driving diplomatic progress, and it's important that the Assad regime lives up to its obligations under the framework agreement."

Below, Obama's full statement, as released by the White House:

I welcome the progress made between the United States and Russia through our talks in Geneva, which represents an important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria's chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed. This framework provides the opportunity for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in a transparent, expeditious, and verifiable manner, which could end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but to the region and the world. The international community expects the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments.

While we have made important progress, much more work remains to be done. The United States will continue working with Russia, the United Kingdom, France, the United Nations and others to ensure that this process is verifiable, and that there are consequences should the Assad regime not comply with the framework agreed today. And, if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.

Following the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons to kill more than 1,000 men, women, and children on August 21, I decided that the United States must take action to deter the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, degrade their ability to use them, and make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military force, we now have the opportunity to achieve our objectives through diplomacy. I spoke to Secretary Kerry earlier today and thanked him for his tireless and effective efforts on behalf of our nation. I also spoke to Ambassador Samantha Power who will ably lead our follow-on negotiations at the UN Security Council in New York.

The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere. We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children. Today marks an important step towards achieving this goal.

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