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 164.

    I am very happy to see an agreement reached over this whole thing.

    Chemical attacks are the tools of a coward, there is no reason for such horrible weapons, however mid-2014? the Syrian military has that much in the way of chemical weapons that it would take that long to remove them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    So the rebels are apparently not interested in this deal - I get the feeling they were waiting for the USA to bomb Assad and then they were going to step in and finish the job. If the could take time out from massacring Christians in the north of the country...

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    As much as people dislike the prospect of military intervention, it was only through the "good-cop bad-cop" style politics from the West and Russia that a diplomatic solution could be found. Without threats from the west there was no way Syria would have agreed to any diplomatic solution. The politics going on here are much more complex and intertwined than whats being shown here on the face of it

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    152.Grey Cooper - "Can I just nail something here.. President Assad is NOT a dictator....."

    Yeah - you can nail your foot inside your mouth...!!!

    If you are not a dictator then you are either democratically elected or a monarch, or part of a plutocractic Government set up..... not one of those apply in Syria, Assad is therefore an unelected Dictator.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Russia and USA have been 'good cop' and 'bad cop' and both were necessary to achieve this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Glad the french agree, I hope the ATOS led Beeb will now give it a rest on Syria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Never be fooled by politicians folks!
    Whilst it's great that Putins's has prevented war, his motives are the usual political, financial and military ones, as were USA's in wanting to start the war! Human lives seem worthless to politicians. They won't let mere mass murder get in the way of "national interests".
    Look out for future US excuses to invade Syria and Iran... it's still on their agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Does this mean that the potential demise of the UN, for dealing with security, is now not so certain?

    I really hope so, as its out only hope for future world peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    118.John............will the so called rebels let the UN inspectors in or will they now revert to killing and/or kidnapping the inspectors

    Technically, not in their best interests John or it could reveal an ugly truth. Conversely, they should be offering protection & full cooperation to enforce their allegations against Assad. The UN also needs to be very diverse in its search.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    @146 Dansky3

    Don't be a complete idiot. The USA military threat has backed Russia and Syria into a corner just as much as USA has been backed into a corner by diplomoacy. No one wanted a war as western states are still reeling from Iraq.

    There is no pure good and evil in this story, just many shades of grey. Your attempt to paint USA as evil just betrays your own childishness or idiocy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    oh the outrage... destroy these horrible weapons (we sold you) then we can sell you some more...

    so mr.Kerry when's your next dinner date with a dictator?

    meanwhile back in the land of the free (haha) the worlds largest organisation of any kind (u.s military) thinks where next for its endless thirst for dlivering freedom (erm capitalism) ... & of course oil... thirsty things militarys you know

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    24. John Maloney

    "The overwhelming sentiment against another war, coupled with commendable diplomacy from the Russians, has forced a rethink amongst the US Administration."

    Russia is simply protecting its interests. Don't delude yourself. If there were irrefutable evidence that Assad gave the order to gas civilians, Putin's position would not have changed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Can I just nail something here.. President Assad is NOT a dictator, there is nothing to support that assertion. Syria is broadly pluralist and certainly a BEACON of religious and intellectual freedom in the region. It is an ancient civilisation that values it's independence. Contrast these facts to the kidnappers, beheaders, abductors, fanatics and cannibals that make up the terrorist insurgents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Hope President Azad will comply with absolutely and take hard steps to bring peace to his land. By handing over his power to democracy, he should prove that he is for peace and harmonious life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    hys comments never again
    or be able to trust bbc on slanted broadcasting on syria over last few weeks and stopping freedom of speech on HYS

    will take your news with a pinch of salt in future and certainly stop watching you

    many media outlets offering more balanced view and dont have fat cat execs paid off and make out as if there was nothing they could do only bbc can "justify" its news....

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Probably one of the worst Comments pages I have ever seen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Kerry said - "Therefore, since these weapons are in areas under regime control, predominantly, Sergey raises questions that maybe the opposition has some here or there and .. absolutley, fair is fair, both sides have to be responsible".

    Hmm .....

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    I can't help thinking that this 'deal' is all about Putin and Obama getting to save face and has very little to do with what's actually happening on the ground in Syria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Woo hoo! The US backed into a corner...

    You... yes YOU!


    Shame on you. Report the truth.... the evil, islamic jihadist foreign mercenaries in Syria are funded by the CIA via Libya. If WW3 had started all of those at the BBC who both blinfly accepted the evil lies that the evil in the US spewed... would have to explain to your children what you were doing to stop the war...

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    lets hope assad now gets to kill all the islamofascist mercenary terrorists plenty from the uk fighting in syria killing children and old men cutting their heads off forced marriage of women etc and great news on those nasty citizens who alshabab kebab killed in Somalia


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