US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday they have reached an agreement on a framework for Syria to verify it is eliminating all its chemical weapons.
After a third day of talks in Geneva, the top US diplomat and his Russian counterpart said that Washington and Moscow agreed that Damascus must submit a comprehensive list of its chemical weapons in one week. They also raised the specter of a potential resolution at the United Nations Security Council to authorize both sanctions and the use of military force if the Syrian government fails to comply. Under the agreement, the government of President Bashar al-Assad must destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons by mid-2014. Kerry also said the UN inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November. The two diplomats and UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi have been discussing a Russian proposal that would put Syria's chemical weapons under international control. The Russian plan was aimed at averting a US military strike in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack last month in the suburbs of Damascus which the White House blames on the Syrian government. Damascus has categorically rejected the allegation, saying the foreign-backed militant groups staged the attack to incriminate the government. Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of President Assad, has said any attack on Syria “is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.” Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has said the US will keep the threat of military force on the table. “We need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons ... And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of US military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region,” Obama said in his weekly address to Americans on Saturday. The Syrian ambassador to the UN said on Thursday that his country became a full member of the international treaty prohibiting the use of chemical weapons.