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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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 64.

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

    But it was a precise number last week according to Mr Kerry.

    1,429 including 426 children.

    When you lie Mr Kerry you demonstrate the Whitehouse's lack of moral fibre and support your critic's views that the US can never be trusted.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 63.

    This whole situation is a farce and made Obama/Cameron look like pretend politicians looking for a premature/unreasonable cause to start war so they can strut around like saviours of the world! Facts are that The Brits don't want it, the Americans don't want it and the Mid East nations should sort out their own mess! if this had went ahead Cameron could wave goodbye to the Scots next year!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 62.

    @58 Israel used white phosphorus in 2008-9 and the US used it in Iraq in 2004:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_phosphorus

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 61.

    37.JohnBA

    What crud.

    Due to England not surrendering, which annoyed Hitler, Hitlers plan was to wipe us out.

    WWII solved the issue of England becoming a Nazi state & your family poping off to be cleansed to enable repopulating these islands with blue eyed Germans.
    .

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 60.

    @JohnBA

    Bosnia? A war which looked as bitter, intractable and horrific as this one with no end in sight. After Srebrenica the world finally had enough and a limited NATO bombing campaign forced the parties to the table leading to the Daytona accords which have held until today. There are plenty of other examples such as Tanzania fighting back against Amin's provocations and toppling a tyrant.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 59.

    Just think... if Milliband hadn't voted against military intervention then this could have ended oh so differently. Looking for you Cameron you puppet.

  • rate this
    -24

    Comment number 58.

    @30

    Are you suggesting USA & Israel destroy all their weapons? Is so you are dumb. If you are suggesting either has used chemical weapons recently say this Centaury, same rules apply.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 57.

    Will Jeremy Paxman and the BBC be happy now.Civilians in Syria,(muslims,)will only be killed by,(other muslims) and conventional weapons.
    There will be no "down stream" affect on Assads military.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 56.

    Well, in an interesting twist of the tale - it seems on the surface at least, that common sense has prevailed.
    And, remarkably, Russia / Putin have become the saviours of diplomacy!
    All that is necessary now, is for Assad to uphold his end of the bargain!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 55.

    Well unit 450 (of the Syrian air force) seems to have no difficulty moving the stuff around. So why not get them to truck it out of Syria. That should take no more than two weeks.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 54.

    "If Syria fails to comply, the deal could be enforced by a UN resolution " But Russia will again stand in the way of such resolution. It appears that Obama has worked out a way to back down and to save his face.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 53.

    So the American administration grudgingly agrees to the proposal by the Russians to destroy these weapons, just so long as they can leave open the option to blow something up...

    John Kerry really is a second-hand car salesman in disguise. Amateur

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 52.

    BBC headline

    "BREAKING NEWS: Force could be used against Syria if it fails to comply with deal on chemical weapons, John Kerry says"

    In reality he went to great lengths to to avoid any mention of the use of force by the US in the event of the non-compliance by Syria.

    He was absolutely clear that deviation from the agreed process would dealt with by the UN security council.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 51.

    Well, its all fine then. But when every pacifist has quietened down perhaps the rest of us will see exactly what has been accomplished other than some more hot air and paper waving. And of course with the Syria problem settled the major powers can go back to business as usual.
    And the jihadists return to killing westerners instead of their own
    people.
    What a wonderfull world we live in.Hurrah

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 50.

    @7 Bill. Indeed it is true that America, although it has spent billions of dollars destroying it's chemical weapons, has yet to complete the task and indeed missed the deadline yet again for this to happen. However this also applies to Russia.(both have the largest stockpiles by some distance)Only a few countries, including Albania, India and I think S.Korea have completed the task.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 49.

    Nobel Peace Prize, Assist - Ed Miliband.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 48.

    15.
    So true, well said.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 47.

    This is bound to drive the rebels wild.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 46.

    @37 1939

  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 45.

    Okay it is a gross over-simplification of a deeply complicated situation, and of course Putin had strong political motives, but it makes me chuckle how an ex-KGB agent stymied a Nobel Peace Prize winner escalating the war.

 

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