U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced earlier today that they've agreed on a plan to remove Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons. It has been three days of intense negotiations in Geneva, where the diplomats hashed out a plan that includes a stricter timetable than Syrian President Bashar al-Assad originally offered. The agreement's first condition is that the Syrian government must provide a full accounting of its chemical-weapons stockpile within a week. Following that, Kerry said international chemical-weapons inspectors must be on the ground in Syria no later than November. And finally, chemical weapons must be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014. Ultimately, the ball is now in Syria's court.
If Syria does not comply, Kerry suggested the U.S. may call for a U.N. Security Council Chapter 7 resolution, which can include both economic sanctions and, failing those, military intervention. "There can be no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime," Kerry said. Lavrov, however, made it clear that Russia, which holds a veto in the Security Council, was still opposed to the use of force. Still, while the U.S. has only softened, not tabled, its threats of military action, this deal provides a moment of optimism. Kerry noted, “If fully implemented, this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world.” (NY Times)
Photo: Via The New York Times