Hillary Clinton on Monday offered perhaps the clearest description of the new administration line on Syria: Embrace John Kerry's "accidental" suggestion of Syria turning over its chemical weapons, continue military pressure on the regime, and work for a political solution to the country's civil war.
Clinton's complete remarks, speaking at an event hosted by the Department of the Interior, are below, as transcribed by The Atlantic Wire.
I'd like to say a few words about Syria.
A vigorous and important debate is underway in Congress and around kitchen tables all over America. This is a challenge that has catalyzed the kind of debate that I think is good for our democracy.
As you know, this is a fluid situation with statements from Russia, Syria, and others in the last several hours. I've just come from a meeting with President Obama where we discussed the latest developments. And three points in particular are at the heart of the decision our sountry and our Congress have to make in the days ahead.
First, as the president has said, the Assad regime's inhuman use of weapons of mass destruction against innocent men, women, and children violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order. And therefore it demands a strong response from the international community led by the United States.
Second, the international community cannot ignore the ongoing threat from the Assad regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons. Whether they are used again against Syrian civilians, or transferred to Hezbollah, or stolen by other terrorists, this is about protecting both the Syrian people and our friends in the region. The world will have to deal with this threat as swiftly and comprehensively as possible.
Now, if the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control as was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians, that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction. And Russia has to support the international community's efforts sincerely, or be held to account.
It is very important to note that this discussion that has taken hold today about potential international control over Syria's stockpiles, only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the United States to keep pressure on the Syrian government as well as those supporting Syria, like Russia.
Third, as has been emphasized many times, and I did so as Secretary of State, the broader conflict in Syria is a threat to regional stability and security of our allies and partners. As well as a humanitarian catastrophe for the Syrian people and those neighboring countries attempting to absorb hundreds of thousands — now more than two million refugees.
Achieving a political solution that ends the conflict is in the interests of the United States. It will require an intense diplomatic effort guided by the road map that was agreed to be the international community in Geneva last year, in June of 2012. There was an agreement we hammered out that pointed the way forward. We need to get to the opportunity to begin such negotiations to move toward a resolution.
The president and I discussed these challenges today. I will continue to support his efforts and I hope that the Congress will as well.