US, Russia agree to deal on Syria chemical weapons
By Tom Miles and Warren Strobel ,ReutersGENEVA -- The United States and Russia agreed on Saturday on a proposal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, averting the possibility of any immediate U.S. military action against President Bashar al-Assad's government.
September 15, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the agreement after nearly three days of talks in Geneva.
Kerry said that under the pact, Syria must submit a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical weapons stockpiles within one week.
He told a news conference with Lavrov that U.N. weapons inspectors must be on the ground in Syria no later than November. The goal, he said, was the complete destruction of Syria's chemical weapons by the middle of 2014.
Kerry said that if Syria did not comply with the agreement, which must be finalized by the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, it would face consequences under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, the part that covers sanctions and military action.
There was no agreement on what those measures would be. U.S. President Barack Obama reserves the right to use military force in Syria, Kerry said.
“There's no diminution of options,” Kerry said.
Lavrov said of the agreement: “There (is) nothing said about the use of force and not about any automatic sanctions.”
Obama had threatened the use of force in response to an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria that U.S. officials say killed about 1,400 people. The United States has blamed Assad's government for the attack, while Russia and Assad say it was the work of rebel forces.
In Istanbul, the head of the opposition Syrian Supreme Military Council, General Selim Idris, said the rebels regarded the deal as a blow to their struggle to oust Assad. But they would cooperate to facilitate the work of any international inspectors on the ground, he told Reuters.
But another military council official, Qassim Saadeddine, said the opposite.
“Let the Kerry-Lavrov plan go to hell. We reject it and we will not protect the inspectors or let them enter Syria.”
Despite the diplomatic breakthrough, chemical weapons only account for around 2 percent of deaths in a civil war in which 100,000 people have been killed.
On Saturday, Syrian warplanes struck against rebel-held suburbs of the capital Damascus and government forces clashed with rebels on the frontlines, according to residents.
The residents and opposition activists asked about the deal said that it would not benefit normal Syrians.