September 14, 2013
GENEVA — The United States and Russia agreed Saturday on an outline for the identification and seizure of Syrian chemical weapons and said Syria must turn over an accounting of its arsenal within a week.
The agreement will be backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions or other consequences if Syria fails to comply, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said.
Kerry said that the first international inspection of Syrian chemical weapons will take place by November, with destruction to begin next year.
Senior administration officials had said Friday the Obama administration would not press for U.N. authorization to use force against Syria if it reneges on any agreement to give up its chemical weapons.
The Russians had made clear in talks here between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry that the negotiations could not proceed under the threat of a U.N. resolution authorizing a military strike. Russia also wanted assurances that a resolution would not refer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court for possible war-crimes prosecution.
President Obama has said that the unilateral U.S. use of force against Syria for a chemical attack last month remains on the table. But consideration of that action, already under challenge by a skeptical Congress, has been put on hold pending the outcome of the Geneva talks.
The discussions here began this week following a Russian proposal Monday, quickly agreed to by Assad, to place Syria’s chemical arsenal under international control and eventually destroy it.
Kerry and Lavrov, negotiating behind closed doors with teams of disarmament experts, have said little about the talks that began Thursday. But administration officials in Washington provided some details on the condition that they not be identified or quoted directly.
The officials insisted that any agreement must be verifiable and include consequences for non-compliance. Short of a threatened use of force, it is not clear what those consequences would be.
The question of U.N. authorization for using force in Syria came up less than 24 hours after the Russians first made their proposal. France quickly drafted a resolution that threatened to consider “further necessary measures” — code words for military force — if Syria makes a deal and then breaks it. The draft, negotiated with the United States and Britain, was met with public statements from Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin that they would not negotiate under threat.
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