U.S., Russia Seal Landmark Deal on Syria Weaponsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The United States and Russia on Saturday unveiled an ambitious plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons by the middle of next year and left the door open to sanctions if Damascus failed to comply.
The landmark deal was hailed by the West, but rejected by rebels who warn that it would not halt the bloodshed in the conflict which has killed more than 110,000 people and displaced millions in two and a half years.
Under the accord struck in three days of talks in Geneva between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Syrian President Bashar Assad now has a week to hand over details of his regime's stockpile.
"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 told reporters at a joint press conference with Lavrov, after wrapping up three days of negotiations in Geneva.
Kerry said that the accord called for the "expeditious destruction and verification" of Syria's chemical arsenal, and required Damascus to allow "immediate, unfettered access" to weapons sites.
Syria must submit an inventory of its chemical weapons within a week, and inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November, with the goal of eliminating the arms by mid-2014, Kerry said.
"One of the reasons we believe this is achievable is because the Assad regime has taken extraordinary means to keep control of these weapons," he added, noting that the chemical weapons were mainly in regions under Damascus' control.
"So that's the silver lining," he said.
"We should not have a problem achieving access to these sites and that will soon be put to the test," he added.
Washington and Moscow also agreed that a United Nations resolution on Syria should have the threat of force in the event of non-compliance, Kerry underlined.
"Providing this framework is fully implemented it can end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but also their neighbors... Because of the threat of proliferation this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world," he said.
"The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its commitments... There can be no room for games. Or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime," he added.
However, Lavrov said at the press conference that the U.N. Security Council would act if Syria breached the international convention banning chemical weapons under a deal reached with the United States to eliminate its arms stockpile.
"In the case of those demands not being fulfilled, or in the case of anyone using chemical weapons, the Security Council will take measures according to Chapter Seven of the United Nations charter," Lavrov said.
He referred to the section of the charter that provides for enforcement through sanctions, including the possible use of military force, saying that the Security Council expects Syria to comply fully with the demands of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Nevertheless, he cautioned that the Security Council would not accept reports of chemical weapons violations automatically but that they would be investigated.
"Of course it does not mean that each violation reported to the Security Council will be taken on trust. Each will be investigated. We will try to ensure authenticity," he said.
Lavrov said that the three days of talks with Kerry had achieved an aim set out by Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama when they met on the sidelines of the latest G20 summit in Saint Petersburg.
"We have achieved the aim set in a conversation between our presidents on September 5 on the sidelines of the G20... about putting under international control Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons," Lavrov said.
The two sides "confirmed their adherence to a peaceful resolution," Lavrov said, adding that the agreement had been reached "in record time."
Lavrov praised the agreement between the U.S. and Russia as a "consensus, a compromise and professional".
He stressed that the framework agreed by Russia and the United States was only a proposal but said "its significance is hard to overestimate."
Meanwhile, a U.S. official announced on Saturday that Washington believes there are 45 sites in Syria linked to the country's chemical weapons program.
"There are probably 45 sites associated with Syria's chemical weapons program" and "roughly half have exploitable quantities of chemical weapons materials," the official told reporters shortly after Kerry and Lavrov announced their accord.
The official added that it is believed that all of the sites are currently under the control of the embattled regime of Assad, given that Damascus has been moving stocks into areas it runs.
Russia has also agreed with a U.S. assessment that Syria has 1,000 metric tonnes of chemical weapons agents and precursors, including blister agents such as mustard gas and sulfur, and nerve agents like sarin.