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 784.

    Great to see agreement at the 11th hour.
    But as we've seen time and time again from those who WANT war at any cost, they'll do ANYTHING.
    We've been lied to before, they'll have a contingency plan, and they'll push on with the agenda:

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    In June 1992, I personally stood by and watched Women, Children and elderly men shot by a firing squad. I was in a position to prevent this as I had the weapons and manpower available and in my squads sights.

    I took the decision to follow orders from UN Headquarters i.e. "do nothing, just monitor". I regret my decision and have had to live 21 years with PTSD.

    Assad/others like him will carry on

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    @ 759 Margaret Howard

    "The world might now become a safer place "

    that is excepting if you happen to be Syrian - for whom it will make no difference - or possibly make things worse as Assad now knows that if he only uses conventional weapons against civilians he is not going to get any grief from the West. This war is looking horribly like the Yugoslav conflict, do we need another Srebrenica?

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    Progression without the need for rushing in to military action.

    Thank $

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    Is it at all possible that without Obama's decision to intensify the civil war by funding and arming a bunch of terrorists, then intensifying the refugee crisis by threatening military strikes causing people to flee in terror from their homes, Syria might be a rather more peaceful place now and we might be able to talk seriously about him doing "all the right things"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    766. Terry

    "Why so long Mid 2014 is much to long a time they should be made to get rid of them in a month, all this is just delaying tactics."

    Do you have *any* idea how long it takes to destroy approx 1,000 tons of sarin?

    You don't just pour it down the drain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    Whoa! Go Lavrov! Go, Go, Go! A politician with brains at last just when we'd thought they'd all died out...

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    753 Number

    "How anyone can praise Cameron for the result of the vote is beyond me"

    I heard this claim in the last few days. History is already being re-written by politicians jumping on the successful bandwagon.

    Have they go not shame?

    762 libran

    I remember it differently. Cameron was visibly furious when he lost the vote and so were his closest allies in the party

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    I don't envy the UN personnel or whoever ends up carrying it out this plan or supervising will be incredibly dangerous in middle of conflict unless there's cooperation from all sides. The fact anti-regime rebels dismissed the plan and weren't supportive is ominous and lends more credibility to the regimes innocence in this use of CW, unless they were just hoping to get their hands on them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    @741 Kay

    "Obama did all the right things in my view."

    Surely you jest.

    He wanted to rush into war against his people's will, without the UNSC approval and without evidence. Not to mention the hypocrisy surrounding the US chemical weapon use.

    You need to give your head a shake, Obama was reckless and was rightly slapped down by the rest of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    Was 'emergency agreement' enabled by risks of 'collateral damage' & 'fall-out' in & around Syria, or of embarrassment in foreign capitals?

    Successful strikes would have exposed Moscow as no real friend of the Syrian people; but Washington would have 'gone it alone', in the spirit but against the weary popular view & letter of law.

    Will URGENCY persist, for more of global & Syrian reconciliation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    I would just like to make one point and that is the rebels started this civil war.God only knows Assad is not one to love but the country did have stability!It might not be how we would like a country to be run but what response does any government make given the same circumstances. Obviously not with chemicals but then it is not proven that Assad used them but the rebels did back in May.

  • Comment number 772.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    No one would have come to the table unless the USA threatened force. Once threatened the Russians really had to put pressure on their proxy. But well done Kerry and Lavrov. The question that is now begged is why this US pressure had to await 1,400 deaths by chemical weapons, not 100,000 deaths (and seven millions displaced people) through conventional weapons.

  • Comment number 770.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    We would expect nothing else of a prime minister. He plays by the rules.
    Meg have you been on the magic mushroom sarnies?
    Cameron along with Blair is the least trustworthy PM in living memory - he backed down because he knew he'd get slaughtered.This is the clown who suspended the law in Britain to allow pin striped criminals to walk free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    US was terrified to attack Syria because of Russia. So they looked for other options like this! Waiting for congress support was just a drama to turn people's attention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    Isn't it nice to know the world's only military superpower is under the complete control of President Obama. Not one to use it rashly nor one to hesitate when it's clear when it needs to be used.This dithering must be the result of such complex competing arguments he wanted to know what Congress thought. But as evidence piled on evidence, he realized the answer is clear Congress notwithstanding

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    Why so long Mid 2014 is much to long a time they should be made to get rid of them in a month, all this is just delaying tactics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    Just imagine the mess we would be in if George W was still in the White House!!


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