U.S. and Russia announce deal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons
GENEVA (AP) -
Russia and the U.S. announced Saturday morning the two countries reached a deal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014.
The deal, announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, includes what Kerry called "a shared assessment" of the weapons stockpile, and a timetable and measures for Syrian President Bashar Assad to comply.
It was not immediately clear whether Syria had signed onto the agreement, which requires Damascus to submit a full inventory of its stocks within the next week.
"The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments," Kerry told a packed news conference at the hotel where negotiations were conducted since Thursday night. "There can be no games, no room for avoidance or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime."
The negotiations are considered critical to breaking the international stalemate blocking a resumption of peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, now in its third year.
Under the framework agreement, international inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed.
The deal calls for all components of the chemical weapons program to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.
"Ensuring that a dictator's wanton use of chemical weapons never again comes to pass, we believe is worth pursuing and achieving," Kerry said.
Noncompliance by the Assad government or any other party would be referred to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council by the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons. That group oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria this week agreed to join.
The U.S. and Russia will press for a Security Council resolution enshrining the chemical weapons agreement under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can authorize both the use of force and nonmilitary measures.
But Russia, which already has rejected three resolutions on Syria, would be sure to veto military action, and U.S. officials said they did not contemplate seeking such an authorization.
The U.S. and Russia are two of the five permanent Security Council members with a veto. The others are Britain, China, and France.
Still, U.S. officials stressed that President Barack Obama retains the right to launch military strikes without U.N. approval to protect American national security interests.
Lavrov indicated there would be limits to using such a resolution.
"Any violations of procedures ... would be looked at by the Security Council and if they are approved, the Security Council would take the required measures, concrete measures," Lavrov said. "Nothing is said about the use of force or about any automatic sanctions."
Kerry made clear that the U.S. believes the threat of force is necessary to back the diplomacy.
"I have no doubt that the combination of the threat of force and the willingness to pursue diplomacy helped to bring us to this moment," Kerry said.
Under the deal, the U.S. and Russia are giving Syria just one week, until Sept. 21, to submit "a comprehensive listing, including names, types and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and local and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities."
International inspectors, the U.S. and Russia agreed, should be on the ground in Syria by November and complete their initial work by the end of the month. They must be given "immediate and unfettered" access to inspect all sites.
Kerry said the two sides had come to agreement on the exact size of Syria's weapons stockpile, a sticking point.
Sunday, April 20 2014 1:03 PM EDT2014-04-20 17:03:37 GMT
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