Kerry says Syrian weapon elimination progress must continue

After reaching the first milestone in eliminating Syria's chemical weapons program, international inspectors and the country itself must continue the progress, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday.

Kerry said inspectors with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons responded to a terrible atrocity with swift action. He said the inspectors worked with unprecedented speed to meet the first goal in destroying Syria's chemical stockpile and preventing such weapons from being used again.

"Now we must make sure the job is finished and that every one of these banned weapons is removed and destroyed," Kerry said. "This is meaningful progress which many believed would be impossible. The progress must continue."

Under the U.S.-Russia framework, Syria must give the U.N. and the OPCW unrestricted access to any and all chemical weapons sites to fulfill the mission of verifying the elimination of the country's chemical weapons program. Kerry said that where the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is concerned, verification is the only way the country can comply with U.N. Security Council requirements.

Kerry said the U.S. provided approximately $6 million in financial and in-kind assistance to help the OPCW-U.N. joint mission to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons program.

Kerry pointed out that the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program was no substitute for ending the Syrian civil war, but he said it must be possible to help Syrians in need during the terrible humanitarian conflict.

"We must also be crystal clear that eliminating Syria's chemical weapons is not a substitute for ending the civil war nor does it end the humanitarian catastrophe that continues to unfold," Kerry said. "If weapons inspectors can carry out their critical mission, then I refuse to believe we can't find a way for aid workers to carry out their equally critical mission delivering food and medical treatment to Syrians in need."