U.S., Russia cut deal on Syrian chemical weapons

12:22 PM, Sep 14, 2013   |    comments
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 12, 2013. (Photo: Larry Downing, AP)
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(USA Today) -- The U.S. and Russia announced an agreement Saturday aimed at setting a timetable for destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and averting a proposed U.S. military strike against the war-torn Middle Eastern nation.

Under the agreement, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations will be responsible for dismantling Syria's chemical weapons capabilities. Syria would be required to provide an accounting of the weapons within a week.

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An official of the OPCW, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the agreement, said details of the plan have not been worked out but the agency welcomes the agreement and would work to implement it.

READ: U.S.-Russia agreement on Syria chemical weapons

American inspectors would probably not be part of the inspection team, though since plans have not been developed yet it could not be ruled out.

The official did point out that the inspectors who examined the Aug. 21 chemical attack, which touched off the latest crisis, did not include the five permanent members of the U.N. security council -- Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States -- because of "Syrian sensibilities."

Securing the inspectors will be a large challenge. The country is in the midst of a civil war and it is unclear whether opposition forces would agree to cooperate with the agreement.

The document suggests security would be provided using UN forces.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday they had reached an agreement to seek a U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize sanctions if President Bashar Assad's government fails to comply.

The deal came on the third day of intense negotiations. Notably, Kerry said they had agreed on grounds under which they might request a Security Council "Chapter 7" resolution, which could include military and non-military sanctions. Russia, however, has made it clear that it would veto military action.

The U.S. and Russia are two of the five permanent Security Council members with a veto. The others are Britain, China, and France.

Lavrov called the agreements a "decision based on consensus and compromise and professionalism."

"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. All violations should be approved by the Security Council."

Kerry said any violations will result in "measures" from the Security Council, while Lavrov said the violations must be sent to the Security Council from the board of the chemical weapons convention before sanctions - short of the use of force - would be considered.

Kerry said the pair and their teams of experts had reached "a shared assessment" of Syria's weapons stockpile and that Syria must destroy all of its weapons. He said the inspectors must be on the ground by November and destruction or removal of the chemical weapons must be completed by mid-2014.

"We have committed to a standard that says, verify and verify," Kerry said.

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