PARIS — Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Sunday that Saudi Arabia has agreed to support a U.S.-led military “strike” in Syria, and that other Arab governments are prepared to sign a statement denouncing the use of chemical weapons in Syria and blaming it on President Bashar al-Assad.
After a three-hour session here with nine Arab foreign ministers and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby, Kerry said that “a number of countries” had agreed to the denunciation approved last week by more than half of the Group of 20 leading industrial nations on the sidelines of last week’s summit in Russia.
The “G-20 side statement” as Kerry referred to it, is fast becoming the administration’s vehicle of choice for international support in verifying that the chemical attack took place, and in holding Assad responsible for the attack, as part of its effort to win congressional authorization for a U.S.-led military strike against Assad’s forces.
The meeting officially was a session to brief the Arabs on progress on ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But that issue, in which Kerry has invested considerable time and energy since taking office early this year, has been overshadowed by the Syria crisis.
Standing at Kerry’s side during a news conference after the meeting, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah said that “foreign intervention is already present by several parties” in Syria on Assad’s side, an apparent reference to Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
“We in Qatar support the G-20 side statement,” he said. “At the same time, we call on all other countries to intervene to protect the Syrian people.” He said his government was considering how it could aid the Syrian effort. Qatar sent bombers and other resources to the NATO intervention in Libya in 2011.
Saudi Arabia has strongly indicated in recent weeks that it would participate in a U.S.-led strike against Syria, but has not said so explicitly. Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, with whom Kerry held a separate meeting Saturday, did not comment after the Arab League gathering.
“Saud and Saudi Arabia have signed on to the G-20 [side] agreement,” Kerry said, and “have supported the strike and they support taking action.” Kerry said he was “not going to name the others” who will sign the statement, but said they “agreed they would go back and make their own announcements within 24 hours.”
One country that is unlikely to sign is Egypt, whose foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, attended the Saturday meeting and held private talks with Kerry.