Washington D.C. – Congressman Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement reacting to the President’s speech on Syria.

“President Obama made a clear and compelling case to the American people for the need to hold Assad accountable for his use of chemical weapons, while at the same time pursuing diplomatic options that may avert the use of force in Syria. I agree with the President that we must keep up the pressure on Assad and demonstrate to the world that there will be consequences for using such weapons. I believe we have a moral responsibility to help stop the slaughter in Syria and ensure that chemical weapons are never used there, or in any other conflict around the world.

The proposal for Assad to give up his chemical weapons has merit and should be explored. We must make sure that this is a serious proposal and that Assad and his Russian patrons are not just floating this as a delay tactic or playing for time. If indeed this proposal is serious, the credible threat of American force was certainly a factor in that decision.

As Ronald Reagan used to say, ‘trust, but verify.’ Putin and Assad are not exactly people whose promises you accept blindly, so I believe we have to go into this with our eyes open.

If the Russians are serious, they must show good faith in negotiations with Security Council members and agree to the establishment of strong enforcement and verification measures to hold the Assad regime to the letter and spirit of any such accord.”