BREAKING: U.S., Russia agree to framework on Syria chemical weapons

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The United States and Russian have now agreed on a deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons. That is indeed a big deal — and now the tricky part is to ensure that the deal is kept or won’t fall by the wayside and discredit deal-making between the longtime historical adversaries:

Russia and the United States announced Saturday that they have reached a groundbreaking deal on a framework to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, after talks in Switzerland.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stood side-by-side as they set out a series of steps the Syria government must follow.

Syria must submit within one week a comprehensive list of its chemical weapons stockpile, Kerry said. International inspectors must be on the ground no later than November, he said.

Senior U.S. State Department officials said the timeline for action is the complete initial inspections of declared chemical weapons sites by November; the complete destruction of production and mixing and filling equipment by November; and the complete elimination of all chemical weapons material in first half of 2014.

The best way to ensure international control of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal will be to remove as much as is feasible and to destroy it outside of Syria if possible, the framework document says.

Kerry said the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must allow “immediate and unfettered” access to international inspectors. He said there was no place for games or avoidance by al-Assad.

But Kerry said there shouldn’t be a problem reaching Syria’s chemical weapons sites provided the al-Assad regime cooperates, since Syria has moved its chemical weapons i

BBC:

US Secretary of State John Kerry outlined a framework document under which Syria must hand over a full list of its stockpile within a week.

If Syria fails to comply, the deal could be enforced by a UN resolution backed by the threat of sanctions or military force.

The US says the Syrian regime killed hundreds in a gas attack last month.

The government of Bashar al-Assad denies the allegations and has accused the rebels of carrying out the attack on 21 August.

In a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Mr Kerry called on the Assad government to live up to its public commitments.

“There can be no room for games. Or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime,” he said.

Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov said if Syria failed to comply, then a UN resolution would be sought under Chapter VII of the UN charter, which allows for the use of force.

….Mr Kerry outlined six points to the agreement:

The amount and type of chemical weapons must be agreed and “rapidly” placed under international control
Syria must submit within one week a comprehensive listing of its stockpiles
Extraordinary procedures under the Chemical Weapons Convention will allow “expeditious destruction”
Syria must give inspectors “immediate, unfettered access” to all sites
All chemical weapons must be destroyed, including the possibility of removing weapons from Syrian territory
UN will provide logistical support, and compliance would be enforced under Chapter VII
France and the UK both welcomed the agreement.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it was an “important advance”. France was the only country willing to join the US in taking military action in Syria.

NBC NEWS:

The United States and Russia struck a deal Saturday under which Syria will allow its stockpile of chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by next year — easing a crisis over a threatened American military attack.

Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, announced the deal after a third day of talks in Geneva.
Under the deal, Syria must provide a full catalog of its chemical arsenal within a week and allow United Nations inspectors to start working no later than November. The plan envisions the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons by mid-2014.
“There can be no games,” Kerry said. “No room for avoidance or anything less than full compliance.”

If Syria fails to comply, it will be referred to the U.N. Security Council, Kerry said. It was not clear what steps the Security Council might be. The deal includes nothing about the potential use of force, Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister called it an agreement “based on consensus and compromise and professionalism.” France welcomed it as an “important step forward.” Kerry and his British and French counterparts will talk about the deal’s implementation over lunch Monday in Paris.

The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, welcomed the deal and pledged his support. Through a spokesman, he said he hoped that would not just prevent further chemical use in Syria but “help pave the path for a political solution to stop the appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people.”

Here’s a fitting song for the moment…

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