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 284.

    Presumably this agreement will be implemented by the OPCW and with it, Syria will sign and ratify the CWC.If so, this appears to be a good deal that should reduce the risk of any further escalation of the problem. Sadly, it does not halt the brutal fratricidal strife in the country, that should be best left to the Moslem countries in the region to resolve.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 283.

    Kay, at 271, I do sympathize with you, there are a few other questions. If the more powerful countries attack after an initial strike, who decides whether that strike was legitimate? Who decides who struck? What level of proof would be required? Who would be the witnesses and how would their credibility be measured? What time frame? Far more questions than characters allowed in a comment.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 282.

    @271. Kay
    Sadly, very sadly - it sends a clear that regimes can get away with a first strike using chemical weapons - what is the punishment

    ---
    How do you know that it was the "regime" that did it?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 281.

    From atrocity, hope?

    Might we also hope both Russia & US - now and somehow always - have had it in mind to 'do their best' for the people of Syria?

    Though 'their best' has been to appear - to have been - unable to intervene 'surgically', thus over 2 years disabled politically from intervening at all?

    Or have 100,000 been sacrificed to global geopolitics, a moral failure of all in fear & greed?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 280.

    We should all be from Missouri. Show me your stuff Assad. So far, all we have is a report of an "agreement" to do something. Do it. Hold the cheering until then.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 279.

    The Assads were already in politics when the Beatles were busy landing in the US. They are pragmatic, shrewd and very experienced in manipulating foreign diplomacy to their advantage. There is very little chance their chemical weapons will be dismantled by peaceful UN operators.

    The agreement may still be quite useful, though, in that it would make Assad think twice before using those weapons.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 278.

    If the USA and Russia get too cosy Assad may find that the limitless supply of arms and Diplomatic support comes with conditions.

    The Russians primary concern is a Naval Base in the Eastern Med. If Assad can't provide that he'll be treated as Courteously as Poland, the Baltic States and Finland in 1940/41.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 277.

    The 6 points:

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

    2. Unmentionables must submit listing of its stockpiles

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

    4. Unmentionables must give inspectors access to all sites

    5. All CW must be destroyed

    6. Compliance would be enforced under Chapter VII

    Maybe that's better?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 276.

    Alarmingly, the UN inspectorate could itself become a pawn in a conflict underpinned with deceit. Problem with multi-faction involvement is, no one really knows who's who & what each agenda is. A man out of uniform can be any rogue with a gun. The UN were fired upon before, but no confirmation of who it was; Rebels or army infiltrators? Another issue where we must never jump to conclusions.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 275.

    It will not be over until Assad either escapes to Russia with his stolen $billions, or he becomes a silent windchime, on the end of a rope, I doubt that if captured he will be handed to the ICC.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 274.

    Thank god for that.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 273.

    #236
    So you think the result would have been the same if the French voted against US military action and the UK gave full support?

    History proves you wrong my friend.

    There was strong media coverage in the US about the UK vote. It certainly influenced public opinion. French support? An insignificant irony.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 272.

    Even today Kerry AND Lavrov both stated that this solution has come up before, but as Kerry stated, it was dismissed by Russia and Syria. It's only because of the real US military threat and Kerry's shrewd method of giving an alternative plan that has resulted in a solution.

    Some are falling over themselves to rewrite history and hold Putin up as a hero; he's been an obstacle to peace for 2+ yrs

  • rate this
    -30

    Comment number 271.

    Sadly, very sadly - it sends a clear that regimes can get away with a first strike using chemical weapons -- what is the punishment - so-called great powers -- you have set a precedent worse than than the ruthless murderer in Damascus -- the message is " Now that you have used it, be a good boy and get rid of them -- we are watching you -- it is OK first time around". History repeats, again!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 270.

    236 Billy
    you will have seen the news piece today/yesterday that 1/5 Americans have not been able to buy food at some point in the last year , and twice that percent i.e, 40%, have been forced to go without prescription medication because they could not afford it, something that would not apply to you or your parents. So don't be so neg. How does the US voting public tolerate their foreign policy?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 269.

    surely USA and Israel, UK ,Saudi etc should list all their WMD including nuclear.
    Why was my first comment about this taken down??

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 268.

    Mid 2014, that seems a bit soon to me.

    It`s going to take the US until 2025 to get rid of their remaining stocks of 3500 tonnes.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 267.

    If Assad is already shifting chemArms into Leb&Iraq then he is already in breach. Proliferation also an issue. This is precisely the kind of avoidance Kerry was just saying would not be tolerated. It also goes right to the heart of the matter: Russians only imagine they have any influence with Assad. He is a complete sociopath & does as he pleases. You will have to go directly toCh VII resolution.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 266.

    Incidents will still happen in Syria like the UN observers in the Golan Heights snatched by Syrian rebels that was reported a few months ago and now the FSA are not happy of the outcome of Western intervention i can see it's going to be red hot in the coming months in the Golan Heights boarding Syria and Israel i just hope am wrong though!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 265.

    Damn you earworm


    "Rah! Rah! Vlad Putin

    Russia's greatest love machine..."


    courtesy Bony M

 

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