10 Sep 2013

Syria: Kerry idea ‘discussed at G20’

So John Kerry‘s words in London making an offer to Syria to surrender its chemical weapon stocks may not have been the slip of the tongue they’ve been portrayed as.

That was the clear implication of the David Cameron‘s words just now in evidence to a committee of select MPs.


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Mr Cameron said that he’d actually discussed the idea of demanding Syria give up its arsenal in advance with President Barack Obama in St Petersburg on the margins of the G20 last week.

A cynic might think this was inserted at the White House’s request to restore secretary Kerry’s reputation.

The prime minster was speaking this afternoon having just finished a phone call with President Obama.

Mr Cameron only managed a few brief words with the US president at the G20 and there was no formal bilateral.

Read more: Obama ‘agrees to UN talks on Russia’s plan for Syria’

The prime minister’s words don’t mean the original theory was wrong about Mr Kerry blurting out something unintentionally

The idea of a chemical weapons demand could have been discussed at a high level in the US and then dismissed, only to be blurted out by Mr Kerry in the press conference with William Hague.

The prime minister also said that the UK, along with France and the US, was tabling a motion at the UN Security Council which would formalise the demand and try to write in sanctions that would apply if Syria failed to comply.

It gives the three allies something to do in the diplomatic sphere while the gap before any military action extends waiting for congressional approval.

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Mr Cameron had to put on reading glasses for the first time in public while giving evidence to the liaison committee.

Tony Blair reached a similar moment in office and surrendered to the inevitable in full public glare at PMQs.

Mr Cameron chose a slightly lower key, less-watched debut for the debut.

Civil servants say the prime minister has missed nothing straining his eyes in the meantime and there is no need for them to produce papers in extra large font for Mr Cameron (Gordon Brown famously had to have his speeches written in Arial bold 16 font).

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