The United States and Russia on Saturday announced the framework of a deal on Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, averting for the time being U.S.-led military action on Syria.
The U.S. and Russia will work toward quick adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution that reinforces the points of the agreement. Failure from Syria and President Bashar al-Assad to adhere to certain deadlines or comply with certain requirements could lead to consequences under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter — which outlines both the possibility of both sanctions and military force.
However, U.S. officials will not likely seek threat of military action in the Security Council resolution, knowing that Russia would likely move to veto the measure.
Here are the key points, from the State Department’s outline of the agreement:
- The U.S. and Russia have agreed to the amount and types of chemical weapons in Syria, and are “committed” to immediate international control over them.
- Syria has a deadline of a week to submit everything about its chemical weapons program. This includes a “comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.”
- U.N.-led inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November to begin removal of chemical weapons.
- Destruction of production and mixing/filling equipment by November.
- Complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.
Though the State Department stressed that this deal was only a framework, it still doesn’t answer a few important questions. First, there’s clear scepticism that Assad will comply with the terms of the deal — and the consequences if he doesn’t are still unresolved.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, that President Barack Obama reserves the right to take military action if it is in the national-security interests of the country. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “there is nothing said about the use of force.”
In a statement, Obama called the agreement an “important, concrete step,” but he said that the U.S. is still “prepared to act” if diplomacy fails.
“We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children. Today marks an important step towards achieving this goal,” Obama said.
The deal comes after a whirlwind week in the Syrian crisis — one that started with Obama desperately trying to garner votes from Congress to authorise military strikes and progressed into Kerry — possibly accidentally — finding a diplomatic solution
Kerry made what appeared to be an offhand remark in London early Monday, suggesting that Syria could potentially avoid a U.S. attack if it handed over “every single bit of his chemical weapons” to the international community in the next week.
The State Department initially walked back the remarks. Spokeswoman Marie Harf called them “hypothetical” and “a rhetorical statement about a scenario that we find highly unlikely.”
Nevertheless, Russia immediately jumped on the offer. “If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
And Syria followed, as Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Tuesday it officially accepted the Russian-led plan.
On Thursday, Kerry and Lavrov began discussing a possible deal in Geneva.
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