News / Middle East

Kerry, Lavrov Outline Steps Syria Must Take

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shake hands after making statements following meetings regarding Syria, at a news conference in Geneva, Sept.14, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shake hands after making statements following meetings regarding Syria, at a news conference in Geneva, Sept.14, 2013.
VOA News
The United States and Russia have agreed on a framework for ending Syria's chemical weapons program that includes a requirement for Syria to submit a comprehensive list of such weapons in one week.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the plan during a joint news conference in Geneva Saturday, with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.  

"We have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons possessed by the Assad regime and we are committed to the rapid assumption of control by the international community of those weapons," he said.

Kerry said they agreed that Syria must provide the immediate right to inspect all such weapons sites, which he says will lead to the destruction of the weapons outside of Syria.

The plan calls for the elimination or removal of all chemical weapons material and equipment by mid-2014.

If the plan is successful, Kerry said it could have far-reaching consequences.

"If we can join together and make this framework a success, and eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, we would not only save lives but we would reduce the threat to the region and reinforce an international standard, an international norm," he said.

Kerry said if Syria does not comply with the plan, they could request a U.N. Security Council "Chapter 7" resolution, which authorizes punitive action.

Lavrov said the deal does not include anything about potential use of force.

There was no immediate reaction from Syria.

The agreement on the proposal followed three days of talks between the top diplomats and U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

Key points of US-Russian proposal for eliminating Syria's chemical weapons

  • A full declaration from Syria of chemical weapons storage and production sites in one week
  • Initial on-site inspections of sites by November
  • Destruction of chemical mixing, production and filling equipment by November
  • Elimination or removal of chemical weapons material and equipment by mid-2014
  • Syrian violations could prompt U.N. Security Council action
During the talks, U.S. and Russian officials agreed that Syria currently holds about 1,000 metric tons of chemical agents and precursors including sulfur mustard and sarin gas.

U.S. officials believe there are about 45 sites where those munitions and related equipment is stored but say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime may have moved some of those supplies.

Syrian compliance with the agreement could avert a U.S. military strike in retaliation for the Syrian government's alleged poison gas attack on civilians last month near Damascus.

U.S. President Barack Obama says the international community expects the Syrian government to "live up to its commitments." In a Saturday statement, the president said "if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act."

The United States says it has confirmed that more than 1,400 people died in the attack, and that there is no doubt the Syrian military was responsible. The Assad government contends rebels carried out the gas attack.  

Reactions

France and Britain welcomed the deal.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called it a "significant step forward."  France and the United States have been the main advocates of military strikes against Syria for the alleged chemical weapons attack.

In a Saturday statement, Fabius said he, Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague would discuss details of the plan during talks in Paris on Monday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the plan and said he hoped it would lead to efforts to end the "appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people."

Germany offered a more cautious response. The French News Agency, AFP, says Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said if "words are followed by actions," then chances for a political solution in Syria will increase.  

However, General Selim Idriss of the opposition Free Syrian Army said the group rejects the plan.

" We don't recognize the Russian initiative and we think the Russians and the Syrian regime are playing games to waste time and to win time for the criminal regime in Damascus," he said.

He said the group would continue its fight against Mr. Assad's government.

Syria said Thursday it will join an international ban on chemical weapons, but says it will take a month to list all of its chemical weapons stockpile. Until this week, Syria had repeatedly denied possessing any chemical weapons.

President Assad has said he will only transfer his chemical weapons arsenal to international control if the U.S. drops its threat of military action against him.

Kerry will travel to Israel Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then to Paris for talks Monday with the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Saudi Arabia.

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Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 14, 2013 10:30 AM
"We have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons possessed by the Assad regime and we are committed to the rapid assumption of control by the international community of those weapons", Kerry said. Who is listening to this statement if Lavrov says the deal does not include anything about potential use of force? How realistic is one week in the face of Assad saying 'he will only transfer his chemical weapons arsenal to international control if the U.S. drops its threat of military action against him'? As it is, the world has been led to the middle of nowhere by the US timid administration, and the Russians and Assad are making nonsense of western diplomacy and intimidation.

In spite of all this, what is Assad's penalty for using poison gas on his people? No consideration is given to a world where the Syrian precedence is definitely going to reignite nuclear, chemical and biological arms race. When we listen to the foreign minister of Iran, what he says about his country's right to nuclear program, and what may be going on in the administrations of other regional neighbors threatened by Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, then we will know who has made a grave mistake in Syria. Surely not Russia who wants such an equalization program to counter the US dominance of allies in world affairs.

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