Thursday, December 12, 2013
The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — The five permanent members of the deeply divided U.N. Security Council reached agreement Thursday on a resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, a major step in taking the most controversial weapon off the battlefield of the world's deadliest current conflict.
Syrian opposition fighters fire at government forces near Daraa customs in Daraa al-Balad, Syria, on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.
The Associated Press / Sham News Network via AP video
Senior U.S., Russian, British and French diplomats confirmed the agreement, which also includes China. Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he would introduce the text to the Security Council's 10 non-permanent members Thursday night.
A vote on the resolution still depends on how the full council responds to the draft, and on how soon an international group that oversees the global treaty on chemical weapons can adopt a plan for securing and destroying Syria's stockpile. Diplomats said the earliest the Security Council could vote would be late Friday.
On Twitter, Lyall Grant said the five veto-wielding members, known as the P-5, had agreed on a "binding and enforceable draft ... resolution." A senior U.S. State Department official said the Russians agreed to support "a strong binding and enforceable resolution."
But the draft resolution, seen by The Associated Press, makes clear that there is no trigger for any enforcement measures if Syria fails to comply with the provisions of the resolution or the dismantling of its chemical weapons stockpile. Instead, it states that in the event of non-compliance, or any use of chemical weapons, the Security Council will "impose measures under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter," which will require a second resolution.
Chapter 7 allows for military and nonmilitary actions to promote peace and security. Russia, Syria's most powerful ally, had opposed any reference to it. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in hastily scheduled, closed-door talks Thursday afternoon to resolve several last-minute disputes on the text, and the agreement was announced soon afterward.
The Security Council has long been paralyzed in dealing with the 2 1/2-year Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 100,000 people and spilled over its borders, because of differences between Russia and China, who back Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, and the U.S., Britain and France, who support the opposition. Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to end the violence.
The flurry of diplomatic activity was spurred by the Aug. 21 poison gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in a Damascus suburb, and by President Barack Obama's threat of U.S. strikes in retaliation.
After Kerry said Assad could avert U.S. military action by turning over "every single bit of his chemical weapons" to international control within a week, Russia quickly agreed. Kerry and Lavrov signed an agreement in Geneva on Sept. 13 to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control for later destruction, and Assad's government accepted the broad proposal.
Tough negotiations, primarily between Russia and the United States, followed on how Syria's stockpile will be destroyed.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted Thursday evening that the draft resolution establishes that Syria's chemical weapons "is threat to international peace & security & creates a new norm against the use of CW."
While the resolution now works its way through the Security Council, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based body that will be in charge of securing and destroying the stockpile, was working on its own document to set out its exact duties.
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