US and Russia agree deal over Syria's chemical weapons
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has said talks with Russia on the Syrian crisis are “constructive” after he and Sergei Lavrov agreed to set a date for a UN peace conference before the end of the month.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said that if the Assad regime fails to hand over its chemcial weapons, they will seek a Security Council resolution that could in theory authorise military action.
The deal reached includes a timetable and how Syria must comply. Mr Kerry said arms inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November and the weapons must all be handed over by mid-2014.
At a news conference in Geneva, Mr Kerry said the pair and their teams of experts had reached "a shared assessment" of the existing stockpile and that Syria must destroy all of its weapons.
"Providing this framework is fully implemented it can end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but also their neighbours," Mr Kerry told reporters at a joint press conference with Mr Lavrov.
"Because of the threat of proliferation this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world," he said.
"The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its commitments... There can be no room for games. Or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime," he added.
"The inspectors must be on the ground no later than November... And the goal is to establish the removal by halfway through next year."
Mr Lavrov said: "The aim has been achieved that was set in a conversation between our presidents on September 5 on the sidelines of the G20... about putting under international control Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons."
Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov said that if Syria does not comply with the agreement, which must be finalised by the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, it would face consequences under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, the part that covers sanctions and military action.
However, Mr Kerry said there was no agreement on what those measures would be, and Mr Lavrov said of the agreement: "There (is) nothing said about the use of force and not about any automatic sanctions."
President Barack Obama said on Saturday that he was willing to give diplomacy a chance but warned the military option was still on the table.
"We are not just going to take Russia and Assad's word for it. We need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons," Mr Obama said in his weekly address.
"And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of US military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime."