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
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    Straight out of the 'speak softly and carry a big stick' Roosevelt school of foreign diplomacy.

    Suspect al-Assad will be applying the 'delay whilst furiously sequestering' Kim Jong Il approach to tactical compliance.

  • rate this
    +34

    Comment number 43.

    If the public did not acted first, we would be bagging bodies. Well done the real hero's for making a stand. Some of our government listened, and our cousins in America did the same. We fought for justice, and looks like we got it. We never went to Eton or Harvard, but we did what was right. How nice of our leaders to finally talk, and do a sensible thing. Well done all.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 42.

    If Obama's plan A was to bomb Syria, Syria would have been in flames long ago without any posturing. Forcing Putin and Assad to finally admit that Syria has CW and even commit to surrender them is pure diplomacy on Obama's part.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 41.

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

    Its probably not possible to destroy Syrias chemical weapons on that time frame, they'd need of the order of 200 days working round the clock assuming they could deal with the large amount of hazardous effluent produced (14x the volume of CW). so they'll probably have to use the removal option

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 40.

    It gags me to see someone like Putin wrap himself in glory but the fact is he has outplayed Obama on this occasion. The latter has looked well meaning but seriously naive even though the former is nothing more than a cynical, coldhearted player! Still ultimately a good result on this occasion as there was no point in the West getting involved in Syria.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 39.

    we don't have any chemical weapons its the rebels. ok the rebels stole the chemical weapons off us the ones we said we never had in the first place. ok you got us we have some. come take them away. but i'm sure they wont find the ones we stashed away hehehe

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 38.

    Russia and the USA both still have stockpiles of Chemical weapons that are at least an order of magnitude greater than those in Syria. It would seem appropriate for them to honour their own long standing commitments to destroy them in the same timescale as they now require of Syria.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    @15. Marathon
    War has only rarely resolved anything.
    _
    :) Can you name any? I know it's rare? but I think it is so rare that there isn't actually a case of war solving anything ever, but I'll stand corrected if you can give an example of where resolution has come via war.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 36.

    Its a win win for USA & rebels.

    What it ultimately means is that assads capability is being reduced. It will need a lot of manpower to protect & transport the chems, which means degradation of manpower to fight rebels.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 35.

    This deal is an ice berg most of it you will never see. It includes a few components for public consumption. And a number of private agreements about enforcement,peace conferences and beyond. The US gets a resolution of the Syrian war without bombing. The Russian's get a resolution of the Syrian conflict through the UN route. Both countries leaders have a real interest in enforcing this deal.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 34.

    I still can't get my head around Russia being the moral centre of the world's leading nations.

    Great to see America's cavalier, gung-ho foreign policy brought to heel, even if it was by a former KGB agent rather than our own politicians, especially Miliband (aka The Weasel) who was too busy scoring cheap political points to really care about the Syrians

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 33.

    So as it stands it's Russia 1, USA 0.5.

    Now lets ensure that these 'rebels' are dealt with once and for all and let's start with cutting off their Western support.

    Too much blood has been spilt and the West doesn't really want to support terrorists full stop.

  • rate this
    +146

    Comment number 32.

    My only fear now is that we let Obama, Kerry, Cameron and Hague forget how they were prepared to enter another conflict against public opinion, without UN approval and without first providing evidence. If it wasn't for Putin (of all people) then we would be seeing US bombers over Damascus today. Do not forget.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 31.

    At last, common sense prevails. Well done Russia and USA. Isn't JAW JAW much better than WAR WAR?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 30.

    Good however I also think USA and Israel should have their weapons destroyed as well because USA and Israel have recently used them. I believe that they should be under watch not destroyed.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 29.

    A best pact for the entire world on this crisis.

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 28.

    HGDUK @3

    I think that in this case, the UK did learn and not only learnt but set the impetus for America to follow.

    It is unfortunate that it took an war in Iraq started by lies and dissembling on the part of those in power at the time, to teach us.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 27.

    All the cries of "WE STILL DON'T KNOW" is a farce. Since when do governments disclose every single details to it's population?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 26.

    @18 and 17, You don't know however the US government and it allies do know. Can't people get it into their heads that Obama, Kerry and co are just not going to lie about this. Secrets in western govts always and will always get out, they would never risk lying espically after seeing the consequences of Bush's 'lies' about Iraq. Stop making crazy wrong assumptions with no evidence.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 25.

    2.
    Dirtyharry
    8 Minutes ago

    What about the rebel chemical weapons?

    They won't come into it because US backs them for it's own agenda.
    Terrorists/AQ prevent the CWs being removed, US will then say Assad GOVERNMENT didn't comply and will launch an attack

 

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