Syria tops agenda as Kerry lands in Israel

Syria tops agenda as Kerry lands in Israel
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in September.

JERUSALEM - Washington's top diplomat arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over plans to destroy Syria's chemical arms and peace talks with the Palestinians.

After landing at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv at 0825 GMT, US Secretary of State John Kerry headed straight to Jerusalem where he was scheduled to hold hours of talks with Israeli leader before leaving for Paris.

His arrival in Israel comes a day after Washington and Moscow reached a deal over eliminating Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons following three days of talks in Geneva with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu said he hoped the US-Russian accord would see a complete destruction of the Syrian regime's chemical weapons stockpile.

"We hope that the Russian-US agreement on Syria's chemical weapons will bear fruit but the real test will be in its implementation: the full dismantling of the regime's chemical weapons stockpile," Netanyahu said at a ceremony marking 40 years since the Yom Kippur War.

Media reports said Sunday's talks with Kerry would touch on the consequences for Israel of the Geneva agreement which gives Damascus a week to hand over details of its chemical arms stockpile in order to avoid sanctions and possible US-led military action.

Although Israel's main newspapers hailed news of the US-Russian agreement, some commentators raised the question of Washington leaning on Israel to ratify the international treaty banning the use of chemical weapons.

"Kerry may tell Netanyahu the United States is working to remove one of the gravest threats on Israel's security, by combining a credible military threat with creative diplomacy.

"Now, Kerry may say, the US needs Israel's help by ratifying the treaty prohibiting the use of chemical weapons," wrote Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz newspaper.

Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, but never ratified it, despite demands to do so from Washington and Moscow.

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