US - Russia deal an 'important step', says Obama

Last updated at 07:19

US President Barack Obama has welcomed an agreement between the US and Russia which says Syria's chemical weapons must be destroyed or removed.

He said that America has a duty to keep the world free of the fear of chemical weapons.

America and Russia agreed a deal to remove or destroy all of Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014, otherwise military action could still take place.

China, France, Britain and the UN all say they're satisfied by the agreement.

A statement from the US warned that they expected Syria "to live up to its public commitments".

An outline of the US-Russian document says that Syria must provide details of its weapons within a week.

This happened after three days of intensive talks about how to respond to the suspected chemical weapons attacks that killed hundreds of people in Syria last month.

The US had been considering firing missiles at Syrian weapons factories but Russia favoured a handover of illegal gas and firearms instead.

The main points

America's Secretary of State John Kerry agreed a plan with Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, that they'll now handover to the United Nations.

It has several main points:

  • The Syrian government must hand over a full list of the weapons it has within a week.
  • Syria must give UN weapons inspectors immediate access to all their factories.
  • All chemical weapons must be destroyed or removed from the country by mid-2014.
  • If Syria's government fails to do any of the above then the UN could impose punishments on them, including the possibility of military action.

Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague has welcomed the deal and France, which was the only country willing to join the US in taking military action against Syria, has also backed it.

Different ideas

America and Russia have had very different ideas about how to respond to the suspected poisonous gas attacks that killed hundreds of Syrians in Damascus last month. American thinks Syria's president Bashar al-Assad was responsible but he's denied it.

But after the Syrian president announced on he was willing to hand over the weapons on Thursday talks between Russia and America were stepped up to try and achieve a peaceful outcome.

Thousands of people have been killed in the ongoing conflict in Syria. For more on the background to the crisis click here.