US and Russia agree Syria chemical weapons deal

 

Sergei Lavrov: "The military scenario would be catastrophic for this region"

Syria's chemical weapons must be destroyed or removed by mid-2014, under an agreement between the US and Russia.

US Secretary of State John Kerry outlined a framework document under which Syria must hand over a full list of its stockpile within a week.

If Syria fails to comply, the deal could be enforced by a UN resolution backed by the threat of sanctions or military force.

The US says the Syrian regime killed hundreds in a gas attack last month.

Analysis

Russia has significant leverage over the regime in Damascus, as it supplies its weapons. Perhaps more importantly, Russia has been watching President Assad's back at the United Nations. It seems likely that the Russians will already have had some sort of promise of co-operation from the Assad regime.

The timescale of work to be done is ambitious. But a logical assumption is that the chemical stockpiles and factories are in territory held by the regime. If so, it means access depends on President Assad's orders, not on the progress of the war.

The Free Syria Army, the loose coalition of armed rebels that has been hoping for Western help to fight the Assad regime, has rejected the agreement. Less than a week ago the FSA believed that the Americans were about to launch a military attack, which it hoped would tip the balance of the war its way. Now it believes that the Americans have been sidetracked.

Whether or not chemical weapons are destroyed is not the point. The FSA want the Americans to destroy the regime's military power, and the US agreement with Russia means the chances of that happening are receding.

The government of Bashar al-Assad denies the allegations and has accused the rebels of carrying out the attack on 21 August.

Syria recently agreed to join the global Chemical Weapons Convention, and on Saturday the UN said it would come under the treaty from 14 October.

In a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Mr Kerry called on the Assad government to live up to its public commitments.

"There can be no room for games, or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime," he said.

Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov said if Syria failed to comply, then a UN resolution would be sought under Chapter VII of the UN charter, which allows for the use of force.

Russia and the US have agreed on an assessment that the Syrian government possesses 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents and precursors, according to a US official.

The US believes the materials are located in 45 sites, all in regime hands, half of which have useable quantities of chemical agents, the official added.

However, it is thought that Russians have not agreed the number of sites, nor that they are all under control.

'Important advance'

The agreement says initial on-site inspections must be complete by November.

Start Quote

After two-and-a-half years during which Russia and the United States have mostly been at loggerheads over what to do about Syria - and three days after Russian President Vladimir Putin poured scorn on American foreign policy - the two sides have finally collaborated on an issue fraught with political and technical dangers”

End Quote

It also stipulates that production equipment be destroyed by November, with "complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014".

Mr Kerry outlined six points to the agreement:

  1. The amount and type of chemical weapons must be agreed and "rapidly" placed under international control
  2. Syria must submit within one week a comprehensive listing of its stockpiles
  3. Extraordinary procedures under the Chemical Weapons Convention will allow "expeditious destruction"
  4. Syria must give inspectors "immediate, unfettered access" to all sites
  5. All chemical weapons must be destroyed, including the possibility of removing weapons from Syrian territory
  6. UN will provide logistical support, and compliance would be enforced under Chapter VII

The White House described the deal as "an important concrete step" towards putting Syria's chemical weapons under international control.

A rebel fighter buys a chocolate bar from a store in the outskirts of Saraqib, southwest of Syrian city of Aleppo Violence is now part of everyday life in Syria

However, it warned that "if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act".

France and the UK both welcomed the agreement.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it was an "important advance". France was the only country willing to join the US in taking military action in Syria.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement: "The onus is now on the Assad regime to comply with this agreement in full. The international community, including Russia, must hold the regime to account."

Start Quote

An important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria's chemical weapons under international control”

End Quote White House statement

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he pledged "the support of the United Nations in its implementation".

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also welcomed the deal, saying it was an "important step towards the goal of ensuring the swift, secure and verifiable elimination of Syria's stocks of chemical weapons".

However, the military leader of the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army rejected the deal and promised to continue fighting.

"There is nothing in this agreement that concerns us," said Gen Salim Idriss, describing it as a Russian initiative designed to gain time for the Syrian government.

Not all American politicians welcomed the deal either. Republican senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham said it would give President al-Assad months to "delay and deceive".

"It requires a wilful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley," they said in a statement.

Agreed target dates

  • Completion of initial on-site inspections by November
  • Destruction of production and mixing equipment by November
  • Complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014

Meanwhile, on the ground in Syria:

  • Fighting continued on Saturday. Activists reported clashes between government forces and rebels in suburbs of Damascus, including some of the same areas affected by the 21 August attack.
  • The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, has elected a long-term political activist, Ahmad Saleh Touma, as interim prime minister. The group is seeking to become a viable political alternative to Bashar al-Assad's regime.
  • Video footage has emerged of an interview from a now-deceased Iranian commander apparently working with government forces. "Many of our Syrian friends here find it easy to work with us, because many of them have been trained by us in Iran," he said.

More than 100,000 people have died since the uprising against President Assad began in 2011.

Millions of Syrians have fled the country, mostly to neighbouring nations. However, on Saturday, Italy's coastguard said more than 500 people, mostly Syrians, had been rescued off the Italian coast in the past 24 hours.

Millions more have been internally displaced within Syria.

 

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Comments

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  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 24.

    It would appear that true democracy has finally arrived in the US.
    This is a victory for the people of America, and ultimately for the world.
    The overwhelming sentiment against another war, coupled with commendable diplomacy from the Russians, has forced a rethink amongst the US Administration.
    Just think, if not for Ed Miliband, we would already be at war.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 23.

    Well done Barack Obama and his team, proving that diplomacy can work instead of going in all guns blazing like a certain George W. Bush.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 22.

    Obama gets his way at little or no cost. Nice diplomacy. Will any achievement ever satisfy his haters?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 21.

    Add your comment...HGDUK
    Just now
    Well done to Russia; Russia deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for solving the Syria problem
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    Absolutely agree that Russia deserve their medals for killing their truth defending journalist, suppressing freedom by jailing opposition and the list can go on and on. What a joke!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 20.

    @2.Dirtyharry
    What about the rebel chemical weapons?

    Only Govternm,ents can sign up to the CWC & once they do they're supposed to account for all the "banned" chemical substances in their country. Clearly a bit of leeway will have to given to Assad on that since they're not all his to hand over. The only real sanction the west has over the rebels is to threaten to stop supporting them

  • rate this
    +100

    Comment number 19.

    John Kerry: "There is no military solution it has to be political"


    Really john? , 'cause this time last week you were trying to talk france and the uk into invading with you

    Russia stood up to the worlds' bullies and like all bullies the yanks stepped back. well done Russia.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 18.

    What about the Rebels' chemical weapons? We still don't know categorically that it was Assad who used CW; oh, we know what the US says but that isn't anything we can rely on and I wouldn't trust Kerry to tell me the time of day.

    I'm not a betting woman but I'd be willing to put a small wager on the US still going ahead with military action before long. Obama won't give up easily.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 17.

    2.
    Exactly. The govts. keep on this empty assumption that it was govt forces that used chemicals. WE STILL DON'T KNOW.
    So what if Assad complies and as they are losing the war, the rebels release another gas attack?
    Will Russia allow the US to invade then.
    It's tiring how the politicians deliberately ignore the basic point of finding out who actually used the chemicals in the first place.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 16.

    People please. Are you suggesting that Russia has no motives at all here? Of course it does, as does the rest of the nations in this proxy war. It is good that this agreement has been made, but I think the Americans are right in suggesting this only came about because of the threat of military action. I think I am right in thinking that Syria up until very recently denied it had these weapons?

  • rate this
    +129

    Comment number 15.

    If every time there was a major crisis the two powers (USA and Russia) sat down for 2-3 days determined to come to an amicable solution which excludes war, many international problems would have been resolved by now. Recent events should provide a blueprint for future resolutions. War has only rarely resolved anything.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    Kerry must now be wishing he wasn't involved in this. He has to sit through all these negotiations about peace and there is nothing in it for him.

    The likes of Kerry and Hague should resign. They got Syria completely wrong and have both embarrassed their nations with their irresponsible and frightening casual talk of military action and air strikes.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    Rah! Rah! Vlad Putin

    Russia's greatest love machine...

    courtesy Bony M

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 12.

    3.HGDUK
    Just now
    Well done to Russia; Russia deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for solving the Syria problem

    ++
    Nothing has been solved, men/women/children continue to be executed/cleansed, village by village, town by town. The vile attrocity & carnage continues

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    Who really believes that Bashar al-Assad will keep his word? His track record so far is not to be trusted.

  • rate this
    +54

    Comment number 10.

    Common sense has started to prevail. Nobody trusts the Syrian regime, even less trust Al Queda and Hezbollah. Nobody can bring the victims back to life, but we have a consensus on preventing at least one of the major factors in this whole mess from engaging in chemical warfare. Let's see if the Arab League are as quick to bring AQ to heel

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 9.

    It's tough to know who has played this best. The threat of strikes could have been a bluff. For all we know the Russians and Americans decided to work together as good cop bad cop to get rid of Syria's chem weapons.

    In any case, getting rid of such a large stock would be great news.

    Now the hard part comes in bringing this conflict to an end.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 8.

    Russia seems to be the voice of sanity. The USA appeared to want another war. Even the new Iranian President is talking about compromise & talking. A new world order?

  • rate this
    +71

    Comment number 7.

    I wonder if the USA will destroy their own chemical weapons within that time frame.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 6.

    And now America will find a way to say "you've not kept your end of the bargain" like they did with Saddam when he let the inspectors in...

    :) The threat of attack hasn't been removed, it's been moved to an "if you don't do this" threat, it's still a threat.

    Kerry needs to get off his horse, stop playing cowboy, and calm down and let Russia handle this without him positing conditions all over it

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 5.

    Good, glad the American's have held their horses...and for the first time i'll say 'Well done Putin' even if he has got his own motives..

 

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