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
    +4

    Comment number 124.

    The actual "win" in all this for Kerry, Hague and Obama is that the er... "evidence" will never be held up to scrutiny; exposing them as the mendacious, untrustworthy liars they are.

    Unfortunately for them, that ship sailed long ago.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 123.

    Great move Putin. Did they seriously want to risk WW3? This probably won't be the end of it, but at least peace now has a chance. Now to stop supporting and arming unknown rebel/terrorist groups.

  • Comment number 122.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 121.

    Political moves worthy of a Russian chess grand master. Certainly 'checked' the rest of the world. Syrians stay in power and the bloodshed continues....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 120.

    95.
    Revelation
    "Putin has out maneuvered the warmongering Kerry who was almost frothing at the mouth to bomb Syria. Now what next ?"

    You hit the nail on the head!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 119.

    Plenty of wriggle room here, for all parties

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 118.

    Wonderful news indeed, the only problem now is, will the so called rebels let the UN inspectors in or will they now revert to killing and/or kidnapping the the inspectors in a fit of pique because the west isn't bombing Assad and generally helping the salafists to overthrow a secular regime.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 117.

    LOL, how stupid some are, seeing what they want to see.

    This could be a script taken direct from the Sweeney, good guy bad guy

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 116.

    #94
    You're right - Kerry's "gaffe" painted the US into a corner and gave them very limited scope for pretext wriggling.

    Makes you wonder what on earth would have happened if the Mad Mormon had been elected.

    #106

    It's a good point - why don't any of the rules apply to Israel? Why can they disregard UN Resolutions with abandon when others are vilified for same?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 115.

    If it wasn't for people power via the internet the scum leader thugs would be bombing the backside out of Syria as we speak. Syria's allies would have been forced to retaliate to save credibility and whohoa here comes WW3!
    Thank god for the power of the internet to show these fools up!
    NEVER let them SLEEPWALK us to war AGAIN!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 114.

    It's like the muppet show on here today.

    What counts is that the pointless killing of innocent civilians is stopped.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 113.

    markus_uk,
    Obama didnt jumped into Syria war of few reasons:
    USA knows real situation on ground and who "Rebels" are.
    Becouse of few populistic premature Obamas coments against Assad in very begining of Syria conflict he simply cant "change" his mind on issue publicly, it will show his and USA incompetly stupid.
    USA dont want support Rebels - all they do is "symbolical" and Russia saved them now

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 112.

    USA regime change- arms selling funding training arming rebels

    who latter turn out to be gadaffis and bin ladens..

    USA is already talking about military action before talks end ?? so called peacemakers.. warmonger is in your DNA

    bombing people into submission by USA Neanderthals

    media abc cnn fox and bbc tower 7 footage 9 /11

    we don't believe the lies anymore.. war does not work

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 111.

    @89 appeasement.. and it failed.
    @81, If there was no war there would be no Jews left and all the countries of Europe would have been re-populated by our German friends. The allies declaration of war was the last resort after much efforts to resolve the problem politically had failed and yet another country (Poland) was been taken by Hitler. Obivously war is a bad thing but it can solve problems.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 110.

    This is good news and promises the sort of outcome that would of been impossible if the West had gone ahead with its attack.

    However there are still many players who have more invested in this process failing than succeeding so those brokering for peace (we?) will need to remain vigilante and see that these efforts are not undermined or derailed by those special interests that would profit a war.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 109.

    I hate Putin, but Russia has definitely won some respect in this, and they clearly won the moral battle against the West's thirst for blood and carnage. Russia made a move that the US had to agree with, or look like a warmonger. It's a reasonable and measured action, unlike the irrational ranting we've heard from Kerry and Hague - still without any evidence being offered to the public.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 108.

    Cowboy Cameron and sheriff Hague wanted to go into Syria with USA with all guns blazing, how wrong they were.

    Result to date...

    Government and the US = 0
    Public = 1

    Never though I would say this but well done Putin.

    Democracy has prevailed

    Let's hope this works.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 107.

    It is a diversion from the 100K death but it is a useful diversion, with a potential to break a more comprehensive deal later on.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 106.

    The 6 points:

    1. CW must be agreed & "rapidly" placed under international control

    2. Israel must submit within one week a listing of its stockpiles

    3. Extraordinary procedures under the CW Convention will allow "expeditious destruction"

    4. Israel must give inspectors access to all sites

    5. All CW must be destroyed

    6. Compliance would be enforced under Chapter VII

    What's wrong with that?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 105.

    And what next? Trying to secure the chemical weapons will not stop the killing

 

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