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 244.

    When will mankind learn that the cause of all wars is power, money, greed and control. Take / reduce the Assad goverment powers out and give peace a chance - it cant be any worse than at this moment - 100,000 lives, hopes and dreams totally destroyed and millions others homeless. Putin - Open your eyes or go to Specsavers

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    After Obama's " gung-ho " rabble-rousing, thank God for two reasonable men practising the art of negotiation, a rare commodity in international affairs these days. Let's hope that Cameron doesn't try to get on the band-wagon. He must listen to Parliament and confine the " Eton Mess " to the Dining Room.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    US has used nuclear weapons. So, shouldn't the US (and really all other countries) get rid off all nuclear weapons as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Right on, WhiteWizard, but who will give us a totally un-biased BBC ?
    Of course we can always call up Batman , he would help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    I'm so glad Assad is still in power.

    All these comments about him not being democratically voted in is as if the one writing the comments are choosing to ignore "A July 2000 referendum confirmed him as president with 97% of the vote."

    So Hooray for the fact that the french initiative was completely ignored!

    And hooray for Assad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Are the people of Syria fleeing from Chemical Weapons or from the standard, bombs, shells, grenades, bullets etc. which don't cause Barak Obama any concern?

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    208.Jo Anton
    The strong anti-US sentiment here has led to a view that Putin is now a saintly savior.
    You're confused. What you see as "anti-US sentiment" is actually common sense and morality. Putin is by no means a good guy (homophobic bigot persecuting millions of his own people, for a start). We just know BS when we smell it, and the American government is full of said substance regularly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Thank the Lord, Syria's Christians and other minorities have at least some friends in positions of influence around the world, even if a majority of western government leaders and media commentators are shamefully indifferent to whether or not they live or die.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Utter bloody nonsense.
    Kerry got caught out via self inflicted buffoonery - the US could not possibly have gone ahead without appearing to be brazenly warmongering.

    It'd got sod all to do with a small Island that can't afford to repair it's own roads.The relationship between US and UK could not be more unequal - we are a convenience and yes I do mean in the WC sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Spineless response from members of the UN!!! But we threw the people of Syria to the wolves a long time ago really!! 2014 is the soonest they need to surrender these chemicals by!!....Wow the regime must be so scared!! UN are the weakest international police force EVER!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Russia, Syria, and their like such as Iraq have a history of lies, delays, games.At the very first sign the US should deliver a painful pinprick such as knocking out about 50 of Assad's best Russian aircraft with cruise missiles with a warning that the next time he'll feel the full brunt of US response to not living up to the letter and spirit of the agreement. That's the only way this could work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    It appears that the dynamic of real diplomacy has won out. Unfortunately 100,0000 lives lost and the threat of a greater war between the powers got everyone to realize how senseless war is. The Muslim world is torn right now by radicals who are tearing it from the inside out and alienating their religion and people worldwide. The moderate majorities of both sects must end the hate and killing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    So now is the time for USA and Israel to list all their chemical, nuclear and other WMD surely..

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Syria: allah's failure!

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Good news. But let's hope this process is genuine and not just a smokescreen to try to legitimize later aggression like Blix and co in Iraq.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    167. Phil Sayers Hi Phil, I know it's convoluted and tricky to get to grips with the political and cultural traditions of a different region! Assad's wife is an English rose!! Mother of his children. Can't get my head around why we are not supporting a pluralist beacon of religious and intellectual freedom, against terrorists for whom hate, murder, kidnapping, abduction and intolerance is normal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Rebels Admit Responsibility for Chemical Weapons Attack.
    Militants tell AP reporter they mishandled Saudi-supplied chemical weapons, causing accident
    Paul Joseph Watson
    August 30, 2013
    Why isn't the mainstream media reporting this story ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Its like taking the gun from a murderer then letting him go free. Yes collect all chemical weapons but dont let the Syrian government off the hook for using them in the first place. They need holing to account for using them in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    What is going on in the Muslim world? Everywhere you look the nutters in that religion seem to be involved in every major conflict, in every major terrorist incident and almost every massacre(esp on non-believers).No I am not a racist(Muslim is not a race) but slowly I am turning into an "Islamophobe",(no I do not fear Muslims like the EDL, I have a strong aversion to it's many principles)

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    193.Grey Cooper

    Syria is not a dictatorship it contains opposition spokesmen within it's parliament, for one thing! They do things differently over there. Assad broadly protects religious and intellectual freedom
    yeah right - very differently - remember seeing Christians hanging from lamp posts when I was in Syria


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