U.S., Russia Reach Agreement On Syria Weapons
By Bill Chappell
Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart have reached a deal that calls for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons.
The plan, which Kerry announced in a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Saturday, gives Syria a week to detail its chemical arsenal.
"The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments," Kerry said. "And as I said at the outset of these negotiations, there can be no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime."
The apparent breakthrough comes on the third day of talks between Kerry and Lavrov, which began in Geneva on Thursday. It includes a contingency plan to authorize sanctions on Syria if President Bashar al-Assad does not comply with the deal's requirements that it list, and then destroy, its complete stockpile of chemical weapons.
Syria would have until the middle of 2014 to finish destroying all of the weapons, Kerry said. He said that international inspectors must be given"immediate and unfettered"access to the arsenal by November.
Update at 8:20 a.m. ET: U.N. Inspectors' Report May Be Detailed Monday
Chemical weapons inspectors are expected to brief senior U.N. officials this weekend about their report on an Aug. 21 chemical attack that left more than 1,000 Syrian citizens dead.
"I believe that the report will be an overwhelming, overwhelming report that chemical weapons (were) used, even though I cannot publicly say at this time before I receive this report," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said during a U.N. meeting Friday, Reuters reports.
Many of the U.N. inspection team's conclusions might be made public Monday, after Ban briefs the Security Council, the AP says. Sweden's Ake Sellstrom, who leads the team, told the new agency that he is presenting his findings to Ban this weekend.
Our original report continues:
Any possible sanctions on Syria would stem from a U.N. Security Council "Chapter 7" resolution, meaning that they could include military or non-military measures. Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter deals with preserving international peace and security.
"Any violations ... 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. All violations should be approved by the Security Council."
The Syrian government has denied that it deployed chemical weapons against its own citizens; it had not publicly acknowledged its chemical stockpile until Tuesday, when it promised to open storage sites to inspectors.
As The Washington Post reports, "Assad sent a letter Thursday to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying that on Monday he will sign the international accord banning chemical weapons."
Kerry says that the efforts to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons holdings are directly linked to the push for peace talks to end the country's civil war, which has killed thousands since it began more than two years ago.