15 Sep 2013

Syrian chemical weapons deal agreed in Geneva

2:21 pm on 15 September 2013

The United States and Russia have agreed on a proposal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, averting the possibility of any immediate US military action against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the agreement on Saturday at a news conference after nearly three days of talks in Geneva.

Mr Kerry said Syria must submit a comprehensive listing of its chemical weapons stockpiles within one week.

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

State media in Syria broadcast the news conference live, indicating Damascus is satisfied with the deal.

Mr Kerry said the agreement will be enforced by a UN resolution, backed by the threat of sanctions and force for non-compliance.

Mr Lavrov said the deal contains nothing about the use of force.

The BBC reports Russia and the United States have agreed on an assessment that the Syrian government possesses 1000 tonnes of chemical agents and precursors. The US believes the materials are located at 45 sites.

Experts say removing Syria's chemical weapons stocks will pose huge technical problems in the middle of a civil war.

The agreement says initial on-site inspections must be complete by November.

The United States accuses President Assad of using chemical weapons to kill 1429 civilians in Damascus on 21 August. Russia and Syria say it was the work of rebel forces.

UN paperwork

The United Nations has formally accepted Syria's application to join the chemical weapons convention.

Syria applied on Thursday to join the convention, which bans the production and stockpiling of chemical weapons and orders the destruction of existing stocks.

But UN lawyers asked the government for information before it could be accepted.

UN said on Saturday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had received ''the formal instrument of accession to the convention'' by the Syrian Arab Republic.

A spokeswoman said the convention will enter into force for Syria on 14 October.

Opposition not happy

The Free Syrian Army has rejected the agreement, saying it will not solve the crisis.

General Selim Idris said the opposition will continue its struggle. He said Russia is just trying to buy time for the Assad regime.

Fighting on the ground in Syria continued unabated on Saturday in the ancient Christian town of Maalula, near Damascus.