Syria crisis: Obama warns Assad over chemical plan


John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov outlined the deal in Geneva

US President Barack Obama has warned of "consequences" if the Syrian regime fails to comply with a framework deal to destroy its chemical weapons.

A framework document agreed by the US and Russia on Saturday stipulates that Syria must provide full details of its stockpile within a week.

The chemical arsenal must then be eliminated by mid-2014.

If Syria fails to comply, the deal could be enforced by a UN resolution with the use of force as a last resort.

But US officials say the president reserves the right to act without the agreement of the UN.


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.

China, France, the UK, the UN and Nato have all expressed satisfaction at the agreement.

In Beijing, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday that China the deal "will enable tensions in Syria to be eased".

There has so far been no reaction from Damascus.

Mr Obama said in a statement that the deal was an "important step" but urged Syria to "live up to its public commitments".

"If diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act," he said.

The Pentagon said the US military was still in position for military strikes.

The US says the Syrian regime killed hundreds in a poison-gas attack in eastern Damascus on 21 August.

President Bashar al-Assad's government denies the allegations and has accused the rebels of carrying out the attack.

Syria recently agreed to join the global Chemical Weapons Convention, and the UN said it would come under the treaty from 14 October.

The framework deal was unveiled by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry in a news conference in Geneva.

Mr Kerry outlined a timetable that analysts said was extremely ambitious.

It envisages Syria providing a full inventory of its chemical weapons in one week, all production equipment being destroyed by November, and all weapons being removed from Syria or destroyed by mid-2014.

Both men confirmed that a UN resolution could be sought under Chapter VII of the UN charter, which allows for the use of force, if Syria fails to comply.

However the Russian foreign minister said force remained a last-ditch option.

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

"Naturally, no use of force is mentioned in these agreed approaches. Nor are any automatic sanctions mentioned. Any violations must be convincingly and unambiguously proven in the UN Security Council," he said.

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 government hands, half of which have useable quantities of chemical agents.

But it is thought that Russia does not agree on the number of sites, nor that they are all under the government's control.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is visiting Beijing, said it was an "important advance" while British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement: "The onus is now on the Assad regime to comply with this agreement in full.

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, the two sides have finally collaborated on an issue fraught with political and technical dangers”

End Quote

The military leader of the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army has 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.

Mr Kerry landed in Israel on Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Before the talks, Mr Netanyahu said it was too early to assess the Syria deal.

"These understandings will be judged on their results - the complete destruction of all of the chemical weapons stockpiles that the Syrian regime has used against its own people," he said.

Mr Kerry is due to go to Paris to meet his French, British and Saudi counterparts on Monday.

Meanwhile there has been more fighting on the ground in Syria with clashes between government forces and rebels in the suburbs of Damascus, including some of the same areas affected by the 21 August attack.

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.

Millions more have been internally displaced within Syria.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    Are these bias when it comes to media? When a comment criticizes/ridicules Iran/Iranians bordering on racism, it is made prominent and circulated tenaciously. When a comment even in the most mild manner criticizes Israel, it is swept under and deleted

    When Iranians were being gassed by Saddam, US went and shot down an Iranian airliner full of women and children and gave Saddam more chemicals ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.


    Of course it was CIA & its wahabi babies there. They have been doing such atrocities for a long time now starting in Afghanistan during 1980's (Reagan had actually gone on TV and dedicated space shuttle launches to Taliban)

    It is the same story. Here is what bbc will never tell you, a real analysis of the situation and why it was the western supported cannibal rebels

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    MrAdamo (251) has it spot on - PNAC became Bush Jr's US foreign policy on 9/12/2001: and from the 2000 pdf the core missions (iv) included:
    • fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars;
    • perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions;

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    292. Ted Bovis

    "Those that run our media are affiliated to other groups with hidden goals."

    Not only that, but Holly Willoughby has left 'The Voice'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Maybe you guys getting comments deleted are right. We should all leave Israel alone, no comments, no arms, no aid. No western support. Would that suit you better? Of course you'll agree to being treat the same as everyone else so prepare to surrender the nukes and CW. Everyone's a winner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    BBC, are you really wanting to make us TOTALLY paranoid? Have your management being reading Orwell's '1984' as a 'Totalitarianism For Dummies' manual?

    Israel is up to its neck in the conflict in Syria. The CIA and Israel have been seeding the country with agents of chaos for years now. Iran also.

    Do your job. Uphold free speech.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    I'm starting to think the West is supporting the wrong side, Christians being butchered by radical Islamist and we support the radical Islamist side, why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Thanks for this, all should read this insight into American "thinking"
    Reminiscent of Wolfowitz' plan for securing Iraq oil, he wrote long before the WMD invention. This clearly was the reason for the Americans about face on Saddam, and the reason for preferring bombing and invasion vs waiting for the UN was so no one would see the "made in USA" stamps on the arms and chemical weapons

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Some people ask interesting questions of our media and are confused by the biased reporting.

    If you believe our media is 'free' then you will undoubtedly remain confused. However, when you realise it's not 'free' at all and is controlled by various parties, often with common agendas, then things become much clearer.

    Those that run our media are affiliated to other groups with hidden goals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Is the BBC is biased?

    I have made 3 attempts now to explain that AIPAC are lobbying Obama on behalf of Israel, to attack Syria, & they have all been deleted?

    My source is Haaretz, one of Israel's premier news papers:

    This is very much ON Topic, but no doubt GIYUS or other blog activists prefer you dont know about it!

    Is this HYS or not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    The pro killing machine, pro Assad Regime, propaganda is thick on here as usual. I guess you imagine you can influence the politics?

    I really don't think so.

    Little people are of no consequence in the bigger scheme of things. Your masters will decide what happens next. They will trouser the stolen money, not you !! You will most likely be left both trouserless and peniless?

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    282.Kingsley O
    Of course you get it, Fox news better known as Rupert Murdoch tell them what the government wants them to think channel (wasn't Rupert Murdoch in the A team?). would suggest that al-Qaeda an active part of the rebels side would be emboldened by America not bombing their enemies, stupid or what.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    The funny things is all these political puppets will RSVP their invitations to the Bilderberg party at Bohemian Grove so they can get briefed on how the ruling bodies (Banks & Companies) of this work actually want things doing in the world. When you've got billions you like to put adverts on the TV for poor people to save starving children. Why should they help.
    Syria just another diversion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    Aamir said..
    "I just question some people's motivation for their NO (to war), as it seems many have their own agendas".

    Peace is peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    48. WesLangdon
    "The USA used atomic weapons, naplam (Napalm?), agent orange, cluster bombs and fuel air explosives before anyone else".

    No one else has ever used Nukes.

    Cluster bombs & Thermobaric weapons were invented by the Germans (WWII), Flamethrowers and Poison Gas were also German (WW l).

    Herbicides were in the 1940s by Britain.

    Don't let facts get in the way of a good rant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    "I wonder"
    Depend on it
    Fears are fomented & may opportunely be acted upon as if rational

    There were 'concerns' about the government of Harold Wilson. There should be 'concerns' - not just about health & personal vulnerabilities - about all in sham democracy

    Even in 'liberation' can be fear, so 'elimination' of landlords, and of awkward, just in case, China 'learned' from Russia?

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    I have had a second comment deleted now which referred to Israel in relation to the conflict in Syria. BBC, are you REALLY upholding free speech by having this automatic pro-Israel bias? Israel is involved in the conflict in Syria, as deep or deeper than its allies the US. What about that do you want desperately to hide?

  • Comment number 283.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    I cannot believe many of what I hear on FoxNews. I often wonder if they make up things just to counter the so-called bias liberal media. It is only on FoxNews you would hear that the US/Russia & Syria striking a deal on Syria's chemical weapon crisis, is an appeasement, embolding North Korea, Iran & al Quaeda. Getting Russia, Syria's closest ally involved was somehow a bad idea. I don't get it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Obama should rather concentrate on the home kitchen and create jobs to improve America's economy and not issue hourly warnings to Syria more so when the latter has signed the deal. I believe Putin who said that Al Qaeda elements had released the sarin and not Assad. It is for the UN to see things through and not the American regime to check the health report by the hour.


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