WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama said in a nationally televised address Tuesday night that recent diplomatic steps offer “the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons” inside Syria without the use of force, but he also insisted the U.S. military will keep the pressure on President Bashar Assad “and be ready to respond” if other measures fail.
Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Obama said he had asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote on legislation he has been seeking to authorize the use of military force against Syria.
The speech capped a frenzied 10-day stretch of events that began when he announced he was stepping back from a threatened military strike and asking Congress to pass legislation authorizing use of force against Assad.
Events took an unexpected turn this week when Russia and Syria reacted positively to a remark from Secretary of State John Kerry indicating the crisis could be defused if Damascus agreed to put its chemical weapons under international control.
Obama said he will send Kerry to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday, and added, “I will continue my own discussion” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.