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U.S.-Russia reach agreement on Syria weapons

By Matthew Lee and John Heilprin

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:59 a.m. HST, Sep 14, 2013

GENEVA » U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached agreement today on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons, and said they would seek a U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize sanctions — short of military action — if Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply.

The deal announced by the diplomats on the third day of intense negotiations in Geneva includes what Kerry called “a shared assessment” of Syria’s weapons stockpile, and a timetable and measures for Assad’s government to comply.

“The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitment,” Kerry told a packed news conference in the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, where he has been staying and the negotiations were conducted since Thursday night. “There can be no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime.”

The deal calls for international inspectors to be on the ground in Syria by November and to complete their initial work by the end of that month. All of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, material and equipment would have to be destroyed or removed by mid-2014.

Administration officials had said that President Barack Obama was open to a Security Council resolution that did not include military force as a punishment if Assad doesn’t follow through on promises regarding the weapons. While Russia would be all but certain to veto any measure with such a penalty, Obama’s willingness to concede the point — after threatening a U.S.-led military strike with or without approval by the U.S. Congress — provided a step forward.

“I have no doubt that the combination of the threat of force and the willingness to pursue diplomacy helped to bring us to this moment,” Kerry said.

“Providing this framework is fully implemented, it can end the threat these weapons pose, not only to the Syrian people, but also to their neighbors, to the region, and because of the threat of proliferation, this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world,” he said.

But the stakes have been especially high in Geneva, because the negotiations between the United States and Russia on securing Syria’s chemical weapons also are considered key to breaking the international stalemate that has so far blocked a resumption of peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, now in its third year.

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

Among the highlights of the agreement is that the U.S. and Russia would agree to work together on a new, binding Security Council resolution that would ensure verification of the agreement to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stocks and remove its capability to produce such weapons.

The resolution would allow for punitive measures for non-compliance, but stop short of military action, if the 15-nation Security Council approves them. The U.S. and Russia are two of the five permanent Security Council members with a veto. The others are Britain, China, and France.

Another major feature of the agreement is that the U.S. and Russia plan to give Syria one week, until Sept. 21, to submit “a comprehensive listing, including names, types and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and local and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.”

In addition, the U.S. and Russia have agreed that international inspectors should be on the ground in Syria by November and complete their initial work by the end of the month. They must be given “immediate and unfettered” access to inspect all sites. 

Notably, Kerry said they had agreed on grounds under which they might request a Security Council “Chapter 7” resolution at the United Nations, which is a measure that could include military and non-military sanctions.

But Lavrov, who said the agreement was “based on consensus and compromise and professionalism,” indicated there would be limits to using a Chapter 7 resolution, which Russia would almost certainly veto if it specifically authorized a military strike such as what President Barack Obama has threatened.

“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,” he added.

Kerry also 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 come to agreement on the exact size of Syria’s weapons stockpile, which had been a sticking point before their meetings in Geneva. But in marathon sessions into early morning hours, the U.S. and Russia succeeded in narrowing their differences.

The agreement over the Russian proposal to inventory, isolate and eventually destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stocks comes as the Obama administration warned that there is a timetable for a diplomatic resolution of the weapons issue.

Administration officials have said that Obama would retain the authority to order U.S. airstrikes against Syria. Obama himself said that any agreement to remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile “needs to be verifiable and enforceable.”

U.N. inspectors prepared to turn in their own poison gas report this weekend. Two U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the time was not yet final, said Friday night that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to brief the Security Council about the report on Monday morning.

Ban said Friday that he expected “an overwhelming report” that chemical weapons were indeed used on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21. Obama called for a limited military strike against Assad’s forces in response, then deferred seeking congressional approval to consider the Russian proposal.

Kerry and Lavrov also met Friday with U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi about the potential for a new peace conference in the Swiss city. Kerry said he, Lavrov and Brahimi agreed to meet around Sept. 28 on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York.

“We are committed to try to work together, beginning with this initiative on the chemical weapons, in hopes that those efforts could pay off and bring peace and stability to a war-torn part of the world,” Kerry said.

Kerry, flanked by Lavrov and Brahimi, told reporters after an hour-long meeting that the chances for a second peace conference in Geneva will require success first with the chemical weapons talks.

Kerry planned to travel to Jerusalem Sunday to discuss the situation in Syria with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will then go to Paris to see French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday about the Syrian war. In Paris, he will meet separately with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

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Maneki_Neko wrote:
If we had gone along with Obama we would have fired cruise missiles into Syria by now and probably killed a lot of people. Maybe Putin should get the Nobel Peace prize for actually having accomplished a peaceful initiative.
on September 14,2013 | 07:41AM
CriticalReader wrote:
You saying the opposition to Obama's initial posturing was pursuit of a Russian led agenda? Remember, Obama did not need to go to Congress to act. He elected to after deliberate consideration of all angles. THAT's what we need in a President. Not a shoot first, ask questions later approach like that of the prior administration. You're REACHING if you see this in ANY way as an Obama failure, and worse if you want to characterize this as a PUTIN success. Is that how low the conservative opposition to Obama now sinks? Have to idolize the Russian dictator ('cause, there certainly are no GOP heroes here, are there? Talk about being relegated to the sidelines. . . )? Or, was the GOP taking its instructions from Putin? No, even I won't go that far. This is a win for all of us. The onus is now on Russia to calm things in Syria, and at the very least ensure that chemical weapons are NEVER used again in Syria. Something tells me that Russia may come to regret its play eventually. But either way, Obama did the world a favor taking up the mantle.
on September 14,2013 | 07:57AM
thepartyfirst wrote:
They crossed Obama's red line. Obama is all mouth and carries a small stick. The peace prize winner should have bombed away and really mean what he say and do like a real POTHUS.
on September 14,2013 | 08:23AM
CriticalReader wrote:
NOW the hawks come out. How brave. And how unsophisticated. Obama maneuvered the Russians into a completely untenable and unmaintainable position. They were the lone international voice trying to PROTECT SYRIA FROM BEING PUNISHED FOR USING CHEMICAL WEAPONS! It's the Russians who knew they had a smaller stick, both militarily and geo-politically. The clock was ticking on their ploy. The rest of the world was wising up. They were alone in the UN. They had to cut a deal with Obama. Now the onus is on them. Now it's chemical weapons, next it's all the other "human rights" (bombing of children) violations Assad is getting away with perpetrating under a thin and thinning veil of sovereignty. Assad doesn't stop or drastically cut back on his butchery, and the Russians and Assad have fewer and fewer no more cards to play. The international community just invaded Syria. Russia is the workhorse under scrutiny, Obama is calling the shots.
on September 14,2013 | 08:34AM
CriticalReader wrote:
"They crossed Obama's red line. Obama is all mouth and carries a small stick." Obama got EXACTLY what he defined as the objective: disarmament of the Syrian current regime when it comes to chemical weapons, and an international re-affirmation that chemicals are a no-no. Here's the box score: Obama gets everything he sought. No direct US military engagement. Russia ends up executing an Obama administration (and, I would contend, a clear NATIONAL) priority, by implementing an American foreign policy. And, Obama did it while leaving Russia in the stark position of being the savior of a butcher (Assad). Just beautiful. Obama is the MVP of geo-political fantasy football.
on September 14,2013 | 08:49AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
The vast majority of americans disagree with you.
on September 14,2013 | 04:36PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Putin would never have made the offer if not for the threat of force. This outcome is better for all of us, American and Russian. If we were to weaken Assad and his government fell, who would take over? Assad, as bad as he is ... is still better than sunni extremists.
on September 14,2013 | 04:35PM
CriticalReader wrote:
Obama the master World Leader. Onus is now on Russia to control one form of Syrian barbarism. Obama shows he can cut a deal with Russia and bring international pressure to do it. Demonstrates to the world what BUSH and his bushies should have. Results can be mandated without commitment of US lives. Whoever convinced Obama to go to Congress on the Syrian action deserves a Nobel prise. And, in addition to all that, the GOP snookered into further establishing itself as Obama's tool. Well played.
on September 14,2013 | 07:44AM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
The President gets stuffed on his saber rattling and ends up backing Putin's initiative....and you you say he planned it all along. Nice spin, but I'm not buying.
on September 14,2013 | 08:05AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Got what he wanted. No American lives implicated. Not even the cost of a single missile expended. Was this the result of a detailed, pre-ordained game plan? Possibly. But unlikely. I grant you that. HOWEVER, this was well played. The results cannot be disputed. The initial objective was clearly defined: Prevent further proliferation and use of chemical weapons by the current Syrian regime. Not only has that been undertaken now on paper by Russia, but there is international consensus on that point of control in Syria (something that was missing up until this agreement), BONUS! Whether it was halftime adjustment or pre-planned strategy, again I say, WELL PLAYED. And, this was clearly the result was the DIRECT RESULT of Obama's saber rattling - no saber rattling, no such result..
on September 14,2013 | 08:15AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Now, if only Obama would come coach UH football, the world would be perfect.
on September 14,2013 | 08:17AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Read the article updates Mr. Rollman. "Stuffed on his saber rattling"? They put saber rattling directly into the agreement with the Russians. Seems like under those circumstances, one could conclude the saber rattling wasn't stuffed, but "mattered".
on September 14,2013 | 09:22AM
CR, I share the same thoughts as you. I appreciate somebody else that can see thru a simple plan to see its entirety. Obama has all the attributes we need in a President along with the intelligence to
on September 14,2013 | 12:42PM
CriticalReader wrote:
McCain and Graham are decrying the agreement on a number of wild grounds. The GOP/Conservative voice on this issue. Their BIG idea and ground for opposition? We should be giving OUR money to the Syrian rebels instead (gee, thank goodness no one listened to McCain, and he's not in a position to ACTUALLY do anything. . . like being President or something). The GOP shills on this are just pathetic. McCain the proven loser, and Graham, who once seemed promising, but who is more and more seeming really eccentric if not rmentally ill.
on September 14,2013 | 01:34PM
cojef wrote:
Find it troubling to learn that in the 10th paragraph, the Syrians may have the capability to produce chemical weapons. Since when did our intelligence disclosed this capability. If yes, then rogue nations or for that matter, Al Quida is also capable of producing or likewise is readily available to even 3rd world countries. It has been my belief that only the major powers have the capacity to produce such weaponry. We have been constantly reducing our chemical weapon inventory and likewise the Russians. Believe the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons are of Russian origin since they are partners in the arms dealing business.
on September 14,2013 | 07:59AM
Skyler wrote:
Being that a weapon could be an old bottle filled with gas, I don't find it hard to believe that AQ has the capacity to build chemical weapons. Just because their ideals are 180* out of whack with ours doesn't mean they don't have intelligence. They just misuse it, like so many others do.

That was one of the troubling aspects of bombing Assad. Once you weaken him or decentralize his troop's abilities, AQ could more readily access CW. I'm glad this business appears to be taken care of, I don't care who was responsible.
on September 14,2013 | 10:36AM
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