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The U.N. Security Council has voted unanimously to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, a landmark decision aimed at taking poison gas off the battlefield in the escalating 2 1/2-year conflict.
The vote on Friday night marked a major breakthrough in the paralysis that has gripped the council since the Syrian uprising began. Russia and China previously vetoed three Western-backed resolutions pressuring President Bashar Assad’s regime to end the violence.
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The Washington Post reports that “U.S. and Russian officials now believe the vast majority of Syria’s nerve agent stockpile consists of ‘unweaponized’ liquid precursors that could be neutralized relatively quickly, lowering the risk that the toxins could be hidden away by the regime or stolen by terrorists.
A confidential assessment by the two governments also concludes that Syria’s entire arsenal could be destroyed in about nine months, assuming Syrian officials honor promises to surrender control of its chemical assets to international inspectors, according to two people briefed on the analysis.”
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The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have agreed on a resolution that will require Syria to give up its chemical weapons, but the text will not threaten the use of force for failure to comply, officials said.
The office of the American ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, announced the deal. But the final version, which will be discussed by the full 15-member Security Council on Thursday night, was not written under Chapter VII of the United Nations charter, the strongest form of a Security Council resolution because it can be enforced with military action.
That is a compromise with Russia, the Syrian government’s most powerful defender, which had said from the outset of negotiations it would oppose a Chapter VII resolution, as it has repeatedly done throughout the divided Security Council’s efforts to forge a consensus on resolving the Syria conflict.
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The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.