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 Sergey Lavrov, gives Syria a week to detail its chemical arsenal. And it is backed by a threat of possible military action.
“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 Thursday. It includes a contingency plan to authorize sanctions on Syria if the country 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 Saturday. He said that international inspectors must be given access to the arsenal by November.
Any possible sanctions 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.”
In the discussions held at a Geneva hotel, the U.S. and Russia also agreed on the total number of chemical weapons Syria’s President Bashar Assad possesses, as well as the method for destroying them.
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.