After days of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia reached agreement Saturday on a framework to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by the mid-2014 and impose U.N. penalties if the Assad government fails to comply.
The deal, announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, includes what Kerry called “a shared assessment” of the weapons stockpile, and a timetable and measures for Syrian President Bashar Assad to comply.
It was not immediately clear whether Syria had signed onto the agreement, which requires Damascus to submit a full inventory of its stocks within the next week.
“The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments,” Kerry told a packed news conference at the hotel where negotiations were conducted since Thursday night. “There can be no games, no room for avoidance or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime.”
Lavrov added, cautiously, “We understand that the decisions we have reached today are only the beginning of the road.”
The negotiations are considered critical to breaking the international stalemate blocking a resumption of peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, now in its third year.
Under the framework agreement, international inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed.
The deal calls for all components of the chemical weapons program to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.
“Ensuring that a dictator’s wanton use of chemical weapons never again comes to pass, we believe is worth pursuing and achieving,” Kerry said.
Noncompliance by the Assad government or any other party would be referred to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. That group oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria this week agreed to join.
The U.S. and Russia will press for a Security Council resolution enshrining the chemical weapons agreement under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can authorize both the use of force and nonmilitary measures.
But Russia, which already has rejected three resolutions on Syria, would be sure to veto military action, and U.S. officials said they did not contemplate seeking such an authorization.
The U.S. and Russia are two of the five permanent Security Council members with a veto. The others are Britain, China, and France.
Still, U.S. officials stressed that President Barack Obama retains the right to launch military strikes without U.N. approval to protect American national security interests.
Lavrov indicated there would be limits to using such a resolution.
- Syria crisis: US and Russia agree chemical weapons deal (theguardian.com)
- Agreement reached on Syria’s chemical weapons (cbsnews.com)
- US, Russia have agreed plan on Syrian chemical weapons: Kerry (dailystar.com.lb)
- US-Russia Syria weapons talks reach critical stage (dailystar.com.lb)
- US, Russia reach agreement on Syria weapons – USA TODAY (usatoday.com)