BALI, Indonesia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the United States and Russia are "very pleased" with the progress made so far in destroying Syria's chemical weapons stocks.
Kerry, speaking at a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime deserves credit for its compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for the elimination of the weapons. Kerry said Assad was not off the hook, but needs to continue to comply with U.N. demands.
He said it was "extremely significant" that the first weapons were destroyed Sunday, just a few weeks after the resolution passed the U.N. "It is a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning," Kerry said.
Kerry and Lavrov met Monday on the sidelines of an economic summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Their meeting represented the first high-level talks between the two nations since they sealed a deal to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons.
International disarmament inspectors began work Sunday to destroy Syria's estimated 1,000-ton stockpile of chemical weapons. They're working against a Nov. 1 deadline set by the United Nations last month to destroy the Assad government's capability to produce the weapons.
Kerry and Lavrov also discussed Iran and its nuclear program. Officials from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., China, the Russian Federation, France and the United Kingdom — and Germany will meet with representatives from Iran in Geneva on Oct. 15 to hold renewed talks on Iran's nuclear program.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and says it is enriching uranium to levels needed for medical isotopes and reactor fuel.
Western powers, including the U.S., fear Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb and have imposed crippling economic sanctions to encourage Iran to curb its enrichment program.