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.


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

    Comment number 104.

    Its Ironic a man like Putin who is hardly democractic has come out of this mess looking reasonable and sane while John Kerry and Hague have come out looking like characters from Dr Strangelove. As for Obama he looks and sounds like a man who knows he has been outplayed, the solution to Syria is a ceasefire on all sides and monitering of the Rebels and their partners in crime Al Qaeda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    All very laudable but nothing in that list that tells us what'll happen if they just decide to use up their stocks by firing them before mid -2014. A further use clause should have been included.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.


    The USA once belonged to the native tribes.
    Oh,that is right,they posed such a threat to the peace loving, slave owning,Christian invaders that they all just had to be wiped off the face of the Earth.

    The USA only entered WWII near the end.Which is just as well because they would have been next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    God bless Russia, proud to be Russian.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Don't get overjoyed about this too soon. Be sure that the careerist hawk advisers on the Syria Team in the White House will have been burning the midnight oil on these matters. They will have calculated the next steps in this chess game. Their ultimate goal and checkmate may be some way down the line yet. A UN Chapter VII mandate with its path to attacks on Syria is KEY to their plans I suspect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Assad to be allowed to continue killing his people with conventional weapons? Presumably this will continue until "mid 2014" and beyond.


    The Lebanese civil war lasted 15 years, so don't expect this one to finish any time soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    You cannot have Chemical weapons unless your USA apparently is an international rule...
    Anyway killing your own people on a massacre scale is OK? I know but Russia is to blame as well as Assad for this humanitarian atrocity currently in Syria!

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    The biggest terrorist and culprit in all of this had been and still is the bloodthirsty Syrian regime and its supporters (shabiha, hezbolla, iran, etc), until it is gone there will continue to be a lot of blood - fact - like it or not. I can only see further arms (rightly so) being supplied by US, France and UK to the freedom fighters to try and tilt the balance in their favour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.


    Agreed and what is more why praise Miliband when everyone knows that he and his frontbench agreed with Cameron over the use of force (in principle) and have been desperately dropping hints that they didn't expect or want him to rule it out in the aftermath of the vote. By all means be glad of the outcome of Labour's voting but don't praise someone for voting against their conscience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    What are the odds now, on the Al-Queda backed terrorists, the same Al-Queda that have urged lone terrorist attacks in the US, will manage another ' atrocity ' in Syria that will seek to attribute the blame to the Assad regime. Putin has out maneuvered the warmongering Kerry who was almost frothing at the mouth to bomb Syria. Now what next ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Strange how the least worst result comes without planning.
    Ed Miliband changed his mind (domestic politics?); David Cameron was too quick to support bombing. The Commons spoke for the people and were listened to causing the USA to become less likely to bomb. John Kerry then made an accidental comment about destroying chemical weapons; the Russians picked that up and no bombs now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I wouldn't hold my breath! In 1993, the US signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, requiring the destruction of all chemical weapons and production facilities by April 2012. I understand that it still hasn't completely destroyed them all some 20 years later and Syria has allegedly the largest stockpile of any country !

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Good to get rid of the chemical weapons but it really is a diversion. Is Assad to be allowed to continue killing his people with conventional weapons? Presumably this will continue until "mid 2014" and beyond. He is a war criminal and this should not be forgotten.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    No country should be able to 'get away with' the use of chemical weapons, and the US stance of a possible limited strike has brought about this, apparently, successful arms deal on Syria. If all countries had voted 'against' military action then Assad and his generals may have resorted to using them again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    I think we need unfettered access to the evidence which has yet to materialise and yet again undermines US/UK credibility around the world.

    Don't these clowns understand that? Why the hell should anyone believe the likes of Hague and Kerry in the absence of their alleged "evidence" after Blair Bush and The Halliburton Hawks cooked up the WMD pretext.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    They tried politics to stop WW2? really? 'cause I'm pretty sure political hang over from the last glorious attempt to solve everything with war played a big part in fueling the Germans march to war.

    :) Have you never studied the treaty of Versailles? It's pretty much a political invitation to war, because it was written by warmongers and those who hold a grudge. As is this UN resolution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Whilst I am keen to see a peaceful resolution of the conflict, this solution would require a large peacekeeping force to allow the chemical weapons inspectors to do their work safely.

    Either that or a ceasefire to allow the inspectors to destroy the weapons, but given the length of time this would take I cannot see how this would be viable.

    Either it's a lasting peace or long term peacekeeping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    its not Assads military its Syrian Army, and they fight for their towns, families, children, look at Maaloula. Rebels lost their face long ago since they done first atrocity. And yes all civil wars are more bloody violent and hardlined then any other wars - USA, Spain, Russia anywhere in the world

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    So all that has happened is Assad can carry on killing as long as he hands over chemical weapons by 2014. So much for red lines being crossed. Hollow words from the west. the only ones who wins is Assad Putin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Any workable thing to avoid destruction and bloodshed should be acceptable to all. It doesn't matter who wins or loses face. Goodness!!!!!


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