Syria given week to declare chemical weapons

Russia and US agree fast-track plan to eliminate stockpiles from war-torn country.

Syria has a week to declare its chemical weapons and must allow international inspections, the US Secretary of State John Kerry has said after talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

The demands are part of a six-point plan aimed at eliminating Syria’s stockpiles by mid-2014, which was agreed on Saturday by the US and Russia after three days of negotiations in Geneva.

Speaking at a news conference with Lavrov, Kerry said that weapons inspectors should be on the ground in Syria by November with the goal of eliminating President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles by mid-2014.

“Providing this framework is fully implemented it can end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but also to their neighbours,” Kerry said. “Because of the threat of proliferation this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world.

“The world will now expect Assad’s regime to live up to its commitments… There can be no room for games. Or anything less than full compliance.”

However, the agreement did not mention any threat of force if Syria failed to comply, instead stating that the regime would become the subject of an as-yet unwritten UN Security Council resolution.

Lavrov said the plan was based upon “consensus and compromise”, while Kerry said there was no pre-agreement on what action the Security Council would take if Syria failed to comply.

Efforts earlier this week to draft a resolution were complicated by Russia and the West’s differences on the threat of force.

Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays said that the lack of agreement on the content of a resolution would be troubling to some nations, and there would be differing opinions on what constituted a violation.

“We certainly know that the UK-French plan was to come up with a very tough resolution … that would include all of this deal but it would automatically trigger the use of force if there was a violation.”

President Barack Obama welcomed the plan but said the US was “prepared to act” if Syria failed to comply.

There has been no formal reaction from the Syrian regime.

Opposition response

The agreement was criticised by General Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group. 

“We cannot accept any part of this initiative,” he said. “The FSA will work towards toppling Assad and does not care about US-Russia deals. I and my brothers in arms will continue to fight until the regime falls.”

He added that the FSA was “frustrated, and feels betrayed by the international community. It has no faith the UN will ever support it”.

Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Antakya in Turkey, said that Idris was obviously angered by the deal.

“You heard him say it was a device to buy time for the Syrian regime and the Russians were aiding and abetting the process. And he feels – and he’s said this before – that it misses the main point: that more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed by conventional means, and that war continues.

“The initiative doesn’t do anything to address that, nor the country’s rapidly increasing refugee crisis.”

The US accuses the Assad regime of killing 1,429 people in a chemical assault in Damascus suburbs on August 21. Assad denies involvement in the attack. The US at first pushed for military action against Assad, but later agreed to try to find a diplomatic solution after the intervention of Assad’s ally, Russia.

The US-Russia deal could also pave the way for the resumption of peace talks to end the civil war, now in its third year. More than 100,000 people have been killed, and millions have fled either to other countries or to safer areas within Syria.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies