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US and Russia Reach Agreement on Syria

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The New York times reports in a breaking story that The US and Russia have finally come to an agreement, calling for Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to be destroyed or removed by the middle of 2014. The agreement states that international inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November, John Kerry said, speaking at a news conference with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey V. Lavrov.

In addition, Syria must submit a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week. If President Bashar al-Assad of Syria fails to comply with the agreement, the issue will be referred to the United Nations Security Council.The joint announcement, which took place on the third day of intensive talks here, eased the United States’ confrontation with Syria.

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov had a series of meetings on Friday, including a session that ended at midnight. On Saturday morning, the two sides reconvened with arms-controls experts on the hotel pool deck, sitting under a white umbrella drinking coffee as they pored over the text of the agreement.

“If fully implemented,” Mr. Kerry said, “this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world.” American and Russian officials have also reached a consensus on the size of Syria’s stockpile, which is an essential prerequisite to any international plan to control and dismantle the weapons. An American official, who could not be identified under the diplomatic protocol established by the State Department, said that United States and Russia had agreed that Syria has 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including Sarin and mustard gas.

Mr. Kerry said that any violations would then be taken up under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which authorizes punitive action. But Mr. Lavrov made clear that Russia, which wields a veto in the Security Council, had not withdrawn its objections to the use of force.

The agreement is titied “Framework For Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons,” It is four pages, including technical annexes. The agreement, which outlines procedures for “expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program and stringent verification,” says that the United States and Russia will submit a plan in the next several days to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which oversees compliance with the chemical weapons accord.

Under the agreement, the initial inspection of the chemical weapons sites that the Syrian government declares must be completed by November, as well as the destruction of equipment for producing chemical weapons and for filling munitions with poison gas. The document also says that there is to be “complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.”

The issue of removing Syria’s chemical arms surfaced on Monday when Mr. Kerry, at a news conference in London, posed the question as to whether Mr. Assad could rapidly be disarmed only to then turn around and state that he did not see how it could be done.

“He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that,” Mr. Kerry said. “But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.”

Before the news conference, Mr. Lavrov said that he had not spoken with Syrian officials while he was negotiating in Geneva. Obama administration officials say that Russia’s role was critical as it has been a major backer of the Assad government.

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US and Russia Reach Agreement on Syria
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