Russia and the United States reached a new framework agreement on Saturday that calls for Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons to be withdrawn or destroyed by international weapons inspectors before mid 2014.
The agreement surfaced during the end of 3-day talks in Geneva Switzerland between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, marking the end of a volatile week that witnessed President Obama back off from deploying U.S. airstrikes after lawmakers on Capitol Hill showed little inclination for using American military force to challenge the Syrian government for chemical weapons attacks that American intelligence officials claim have killed over 1400 Syrians in suburbs outside of Damascus on August 21st.
Late last week, Russia and the United States found some common ground to support a new proposal that disarms Syria of its chemical weapons stockpile.
Under the terms of the new Geneva framework reached on Saturday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has until next Friday to disclose Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and permit international weapons inspectors to have unfettered access to locations across Syria where his chemical weapons are stored.
Last Thursday Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that “force might be necessary” to deter Assad from using his weapons if diplomacy failed despite strong objections from Damascus along with an unexpected New York Times op-ed article from Russian President Putin chiding the U.S. for its military interventionism around the globe and claim that it doesn’t serve U.S. national interests.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced the White House would not tolerate any delay by the Syrian government and would continue to provide military assistance to opposition groups in Syria.
President Obama released a statement in which he said that the United States “remains prepared to act” if diplomatic efforts fail while he also expressed some optimism over the concrete steps that were taken in Geneva.
“I welcome the progress made between the United States and Russia through our talks in Geneva, which represents an important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria’s chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed,” Obama said in a statement.
The new Geneva framework allows for any future non-compliance by the Syrian government to be subject to Article 7 of the Chemical Weapons Convention which will be referred to the U.N. General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council, according to State Department.