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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  • Comment number 144.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 143.

    @98.AreYouDumb
    You cannot have Chemical weapons unless your USA apparently

    or Russia

    US has got rid of 90% of its stockpile though its taken much longer than it was supposed to, Russia has also not managed to keep to the timescale & has only destroyed 60% of its stockpile

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 142.

    Syria is hardly unique. I'd like to know when America and Russia and the UK for that matter are going to locate and then destroy their chemical weapons. Why doesn't the media ever mention all those countries which have stockpiles? I still remember Agent Orange, Napalm and Dioxin being used in immeasurable quantities in Vietnam. No war criminals there then?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 141.

    What exactly do we do with a dictator like Assad? What do we do with the Al-Nusra/Al Qaeda insurgents? What do we do with the genuine opposition FSA? With all these nations supporting their own agendas, how do untangle this mess? Where is their merciful god in this? Qur’an 61:4 “Surely Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure.”

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 140.

    114.Dun Geonson
    12 Minutes ago
    It's like the muppet show on here today.

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


    ++

    So, which muppet are you playing.

    The killing of innocent civillians has NOT stopped

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 139.

    I keep seeing people saying that Assad is secular. That is true but only tells part of the story because one of the main causes of the war was Sunni dissatisfaction that he had structured the Syrian government and military along sectarian (and in this context also religious) lines such as to effectively ensure minority rule by his own sect. If he stays in power that division will get deeper.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 138.

    Despite the sneering contempt of media armchair warriors and the arrogant Paddy Ashdown and his like, the decision by the House of Commons not to support the PM's motion has played a significant role in the progress now being made in Syria. President Obama, trapped by his 'red line' rhetoric, used the vote to demand a vote in Congress, and so provide time for diplomacy to produce what we have now.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 137.

    #121
    Hardly - more a case of Kerry blew it by accidentally framing the terms of a reasonable compromise (doh!) - this wouldn't have happened in Rumsfeld's day - no siree.

    Problem is AIPAC Halliburton and the profiteering petrodollar Hawks won't be satisfied.....they need "justification" to hit Eye Ran.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 136.

    William Hague, instead of stirring things up, will have to find something else to occupy his time !

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 135.

    This still does not stop the cold blooded murder of civilians in Syria by all the sides involved.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 134.

    I now remember why I once feared Kerry could be president. He now appears as the prize idiot in this situation. Who exactly was he proposing to lob missiles at? How many more innocent civilians would die? What would he do when the Islamist extremists took over? At least Obama showed sensible caution, seeing that Americas people, like the British, wanted no more mad adventures in the Middle East.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 133.

    #114. Dun Geonson

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


    Problem now is how do you get a government in Syria that doesn't wage war on its own people without letting in Al Qaeda?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 132.

    Delighted to see cooperation between the US and Russia resulting in the Syrians listing and handing over control of their weapons.

    A little concerned about the hypocrisy of these two countries making these demands when we haven't seen similar lists of their stockpiles.

  • Comment number 131.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 130.

    Well done in Russian !

  • rate this
    +24

    Comment number 129.

    For once I'm pleased with our government. If we had agreed to help the US with force the bombs would have allready been dropped. It is not our place to say who rules Syria, but we have a moral obligation to help innocent civillians being killed with weapons we designed

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 128.

    I don't see why everyone is so pleased. Barely anything has been achieved except the prolonging of an increasing problem. Don't praise Putin, his motives are political and cares nothing for peace. Great, maybe Assad will pass a couple of weapons over but civilians are still being killed with or without Chemical Weapons. These sort of peace talks are political and mean nothing.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 127.

    There is no pleasing some people.
    I'm no fan of the US but if they really wanted to bomb Syria, they couldn't done it with days of the chemical attack.
    The UN is not an option as China & Russia will veto it even if evidence is staring them in the face.
    Now that Russia has 'brokered' this agreement, I hate that it makes Putin looks good. Anything is better than war, I just hope Syria will comply.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 126.

    And Assad stays in power and the war goes on.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 125.

    Strange how so often, the one's most for war, are the very one's who are usually least willing to spill their blood in doing so. Much talk and no - trouser's.

    Fight - yes - in defence of the country. For a cause - that is already been taken over in places by insurgent's who are against the west - then certainly not.

    Let the UN, do the job and try sort this out, while not having to bomb anyone.

 

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