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 744.

    .If Syria responds to The USA, Russia, and The UN request to sign The International Agreement "not to use gas" that was written in 1925

    They acceded to that in 1968, it's the 1993 agreement against production stockpiling & use they hadn't signed. That's why no significant action for production & stockpiling was taken but evidence of use breached the 1925 agreement they were party to

  • Comment number 743.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    The agreement to remove chemical weapons by Assad cannot be trusted. Nothing that regime has said before has been trustworthy. The Assadists have stepped up their bombing and terrorism of Syrian civilians and the EU and USA are avoiding facing up to the reality of a fascism which is as bad as Hitler's in the second world war. The failure to act allowed to Jihadists to add to the havoc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    Is it at all possible that without President Obama's threat of retaliation on behalf of Assad's victims, this destruction of his arsenal would not even be on the table? Obama did all the right things in my view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    @ 679 Coolkev

    ahhh, now I understand, so the reason for western intervention in Syria has nothing to do with humanitarian concerns or to back up the hard won international ban on chemical weapons, championed by the UK amongst others, its actually to force Syria to plant GM crop, take out loans from the IMF and privatise its central bank.

    Thanks - great to have this issue so clearly explained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    @717. AndrewO

    No wonder some people start to take these figures at face value, after it's been implied or openly stated 100K times by certain politicians and repeated in the media in a mantra-like fashion. It's called propaganda. Also notice how Kerry and Cameron immediately started blaming Assad for the chemical attack even before they had any sort of convincing evidence to back up their claim.

  • Comment number 738.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    This is a case of "do what we say, pay no attention to what we do - or else!".
    The extended deadline for destroying weapons covered by the Convention was April 2012. But the Americans still have over 1,000 tons ranging from mustard gas to VX which is more lethal than sarin.

    It comes down to brute force mentality is right, that's why there are so many weapons. nothing to do with morals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    Kerry just sent a thank you card to Putin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    Israel is a state surrounded by unfriendly states, therefore I think it is unrealistic to relinquish any of its weaponry. It is a totally different scenario to that of Syria. It would be good if the UN could do something really positive about all the refugees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    Regardless not breaking any laws by holding arms fair in London

    this activity tries to legitimise the selling of arms in

    volatile regions ME in unison with regime change only perpetuates

    cycle of war warmongering war destruction death of civilians and


    UK US USSR FR CN DE TR IT NL SE IL continue legitimacy of arms

    selling in 21st century

    using our Taxes for blood money...

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    I think the Middle East is coming into the 20th not the 21st century and it is over wellming the west plus we expect too much from the US expecting them to police the world on its own.
    I think it is down to timing the West has held it together but in reality even Russia wont hold this problem together

  • Comment number 732.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    Syria is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. We are lucky that Putin is there to protect us from the stupidity of our own government. We can see what the 'rebels' are really like from Maaloula and the attacks on the Christians. Why on earth would we help them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    It is very much to be hoped Syria settles down. All those poor refugees in camps everywhere! Living in tents without sanitation is bad enough but to face a winter of that? Please God (whichever God you worship) these people can go home and live in peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    Call me cynical, but here's my prediction for the future.

    Syria complies, and removes all it's chemical weapons, well in advance of the deadline. Late 2014, CIA plant some chemical weapons, and the US "reveals" Syria hasn't complied. US goes to war anyway.

  • Comment number 728.

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

  • Comment number 727.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    I seem to remember someone waving a piece of paper in 1939. I think we should all hold our breath - and pray for the 2 million refugees, their hosts in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, and all the remaining Syrian people. And dig into our pockets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    The thugs (the slime on this planet that perpetuate war) will do everything they can do make sure any peace deal is scuppered.

    Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc

    One question you should be asking, Que Bono? Who benifits?


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