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
    +5

    Comment number 344.

    339. sieuarlu

    "we are exceptional"

    quite possibly, but not in a good way.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 343.

    Who cares?

    Just an excuse for politicians to grandstand on the world stage and massage their egos.

    Stay out of it and leave them to it.

    They're not worth risking the lives of our airmen, soldiers or wasting our scant public finances to help.

    Couldn't care less about them or their situation even if I physically tried.

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 342.

    Isn't it a funny old world?

    Last week the anti-American mouth-foamers on HYS were saying how Assad had got no chemical weapons and it was just a conspiracy plot by Obama and Cameron to use military action.

    This week they were proved completely wrong (as usual) and now they fawn over the totalitarian Putin.

    What a joke they are.

    Why don't you all do us all a favour and just go away.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 341.

    It's all a domestic agenda-saving sham. Experienced experts are aghast. Non-forcefully disarming an entire country in the middle of messy war has never worked. In any case the Russians can always replace Assad's losses next time with the US foolishly committed to keeping his regime around to "comply" with the last half-baked measure. And these people will be smug having easily bested US resolve.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 340.

    The vast majority of the world's people have spoken out against US foreign policy.

    Glad they listened

    Wonder how Cameron will weasel his way out and tell us what has happened is right

  • Comment number 339.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 338.

    @316.sieuarlu

    Has this evidence been published online then? If so, can you provide some links please? I'd be interested to have a look.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 337.

    323. Its not much of a victory for democracy when we have the likes of Putin appealing to domestic opinion which our own government conspicuously ignored for as long as they could.

    On top of that our state backed broadcaster has been banging the drum and packing out QT with people from Mars only adds to the impression we are run by sycophants and warmongers.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 336.

    sieuarlu @ 316:

    1 Evidence like Syrians troops in gas masks
    Because they were attacked by rebels!

    2 CW experts deployed
    Explain.
    The CIA embedded them in the rebel army

    3 Satellite photos of the actual missile firing just before the casualties
    Yeh, saw a rocket then the camera switched off - good editing.

    4 Intercepted communications afterwards.
    Wat no encryption?

    You're having a laff mate!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 335.

    I have no idea who is right who is wrong, who is good or who is bad here. All I know is that there will be thousands of innocent women and children murdered. Seemingly with the authority of all.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 334.

    How long though, until Kerry and the US find a 'reason' to send in the military anyway?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 333.

    USA regime change-arms selling funding training arming rebels

    who latter turn out to be gadaffis bin ladens saddams- arab springs

    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
    -5

    Comment number 332.

    Good now Syrians can sleep in peace knowing there death will be a bullet or a knife and not getting gassed .
    Assad is a murderer , he must be stopped.
    Putin warns of jihadists , letting Assad carry on his slaughter only strengthens the jihadists because they are the only ones helping to stop the slaughter of innocent people.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 331.

    Bit hypocritical for the US and Russia to go on about chemical weapons as they have 1000s tonnes of the stuff. Even more hypocritical for the US as they used tonnes of depleted Uranium in Iraq resulting in birth defects that have not been seen since Hiroshima/Nagasaki.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 330.

    Obama gave up atlast. This deal doesnt make much sense to me. The alleged chemical attack killed around 1,500 people, but what about the 100,00 civilians slaughtered by the Assad regime so far? This is a way of thelling the assad regime that you can kill as many people you like, but just dont use chemical weapons!!! its ridiculous...

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 329.

    315.paulmerhaba
    5 Minutes ago
    What if the rebels did it?


    ++
    Maybe it was mashmallow man

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 328.

    @301

    I'll tell you my ideal post-war Syria if you're interested; the entire population would be staunch atheists.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 327.

    Then do what I did. Get rid of your TV and VCR. You don't need it. It's all garbage anyway!

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 326.

    315. The Americans, British and French say Assad did it, they say that they have tracked the trajectory and the stuff used is available to Assad. Assad says he didn't do it but has not produced evidence. The UN says an attack did happen but did not by who. The UN say Assad has committed Human abuses. Are we still the wiser? The rebels say this is a delaying tactic by Russia, that I do believe.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 325.

    32. Enivez-vous

    We won't forget them. We should also never forget the bbc reporting of the whole issue and discuss how they are funded now. I for one don't want to be called a criminal if i choose not to fund them

 

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