Syria Watch: The latest developments in the crisis

Major developments Thursday in the Syria crisis:

Syria to start process of weapons turnover: Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Damascus will send "in the next couple of days" documents to the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons needed in order to join a convention that prohibits chemical weapons.

"The petition will contain technical documents required to sign the agreement. After that, work will start that will lead to the signing of the convention prohibiting chemical weapons,' 'Assad said in an interview with Russian state TV.

Assad: Russian diplomacy led way on weapons

Syrian President Bashar Assad was quoted as saying in a Russian television interview that his decision to give up chemical weapons was the result of a proposal by Russia, not the threat of American military force.

The Obama administration has said repeatedly that only the threat of a U.S. military strike has driven Assad to even consider giving up the weapons.

Kerry, Russian foreign minister to meet

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva, where he is to meet Thursday and Friday with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Two hours earlier, Kerry was to meet with Lakhdar Brahimi, a special envoy to Syria from the United Nations and the Arab League.

Obama loops in new Aussie PM

President Barack Obama called Tony Abbott, the newly elected prime minister of Australia, and the two discussed their grave concern about Syria’s use of chemical weapons, according to the White House.

Obama also called Kevin Rudd, the outgoing prime minister, to thank him for his “strong position” on Syria, the White House said.

U.S. arming Syrian rebels

U.S. officials confirmed that the CIA has begun to supply small arms to Syrian rebels, making good on the Obama administration’s pledge to provide lethal aid to the opposition forces.

A senior U.S. official told NBC News that it was unlikely U.S.-supplied weapons would “tilt the balance” in the two-year Syrian civil war because the rebels are already well-armed by Arab allies.

Putin pens an op-ed

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an unusual direct appeal to American readers, wrote an Op-Ed for The New York Times andchided the United States for a policy of military intervention that has become “commonplace” but is pointless.

Putin urged caution in Syria and suggested that it was rebel forces, not the government of Bashar Assad, that had used poison gas. He also warned that an American strike would unleash further violence, including terrorism.

Rebels decry lack of action from West

Syrian opposition activists told NBC News that Assad is getting away with having used chemical weapons to massacre hundreds of civilians, and that giving Assad a pass will only help al Qaeda.

“If there is no action, everyone will be desperate,” one Syrian rebel said. “We are already desperate. We are dying. Many will join al Qaeda. Even the educated will join them, because no one else is helping.”

Biden scraps Central America trip

Vice President Joe Biden has canceled previously scheduled travel to Panama and Mexico this week, to "focus on the situation in Syria."

The VP was supposed to visit the Panama Canal expansion project and meet with Panama's President Martinelli and then visit Mexico and meet with President Pena Nieto. That plan was nixed Thursday, the White House said.

Political fallout already underway

What appeared to be the first 2014 campaign ad to invoke Syria aired in Georgia. Karen Handel, a Republican candidate for Senate, criticized her Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, for supporting Senate authorization of force in Syria.

“President Obama has failed to make the case,” Handel said in the ad, for radio. “His foreign policy is a disaster.”

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.