A new tone emerged from ongoing talks in Geneva Friday morning, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry substituted criticisms of the Syrian regime and calls for an urgent response with the need to do more homework.
Kerry left for Geneva on Wednesday ahead of two-day talks with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. The secretary has previously said there is indisputable evidence that the Bashar Assad regime carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, killing more than 1,400 civilians.
Kerry's remarks differed as he condemned violence on all sides of the Syrian civil war. The short joint statement Friday morning followed news that the Assad regime had agreed to a U.N. chemical weapons treaty on Thursday.
"I will say on behalf of the United States that President Obama is deeply committed to a negotiated solution with respect to Syria, and we know that Russia is likewise," Kerry said. "We are working hard to find the common ground to be able to make that happen, and we discussed some of the homework that we both need to do."
Kerry said he and Lavrov agreed to do that homework and meet again in New York during the next General Assembly at the end of the month.
Kerry's denouncement of the ongoing violence in Syria differed slightly from remarks he made on Thursday -- the first day of negotiations in Geneva -- by adding his concerns about "acts on both sides," not just the regime.
"[We] are deeply concerned about the death toll and destruction, the acts on both sides, all sides that are creating more and more refugees, more and more of the humanitarian catastrophe," he said.
U.S. claims of evidence that the Assad regime, and only the regime, have used chemical weapons has been met with statements from the Russian government to the contrary.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Thursday evening he had received a letter from Assad confirming his government would agree to a 1992 U.N. treaty banning the development, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.
"The secretary-general welcomes this development," a U.N. spokesman said Thursday. "Given recent events, he hopes that the current talks in Geneva will lead to speedy agreement on a way forward which will be endorsed and assisted by the international community."
Syria agreed to observing the regulations of the treaty before it is formally approved as a participant, the spokesman said.
The treaty requires all signatories to declare and destroy all of their chemical weapons caches
Assad told Russian news service Russia Today he would hand over all chemical weapons within 30 days, provided the U.S. ceases its threats of a military strike and stops arms deliveries to the opposition.
At the first press conference in Geneva on Thursday, Kerry criticized any stalling tactics from the Assad regime.
"This is not a game," he said. "It has to be real. It has to be comprehensive. It has to be verifiable. It has to be credible. It has to be timely and implemented in a timely fashion. And finally, there ought to be consequences if it doesn't take place.