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Syria: Diplomatic agreement reached

MGN Online
Saturday, September 14, 2013 - 6:26pm

A third day of meetings between U.S. and Russian diplomats in Geneva appears to have borne fruit. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States and Russia have reached agreement on a framework to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons.

Two Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, said the Syria deal "does nothing to resolve the real problem in Syria" and allows al-Assad to "go on slaughtering innocent civilians and destabilizing the Middle East."

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned how enforceable the framework is and whether it signals a diplomatic retreat for the United States.

Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi welcomed the deal, saying his country is bent on implementing the political program as the "sole exit" from the crisis, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

President Barack Obama said that the framework reached by U.S. and Russian negotiators "represents an important concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria's chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "pledges the support of the United Nations in its implementation," a statement from his spokesman said, and "expresses his fervent hope that the agreement will, first, prevent any future use of chemical weapons in Syria and, second, help pave the path for a political solution to stop the appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people."

The Syrian opposition coalition elected Ahmed Toma to be the head of the Syrian opposition interim government.

Senior U.S. State Department officials said the timeline sets out the complete initial inspections of declared chemical weapons sites by November; the complete destruction of production and mixing and filling equipment by November; and the complete elimination of all chemical weapons material in the first half of 2014.

France says it is welcomes the agreed framework between the United States and Russia on the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called it "an important step forward."

Gen. Salim Idriss, the head of the opposition Free Syrian Army, on Saturday repeated a claim that the Syrian government is moving its chemical weapons out of the country to Lebanon and Iraq.

The U.S. and Russia are committed to the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons and it must submit within one week a comprehensive list of its chemical weapons stockpile, Kerry told reporters Saturday in Geneva.

The United States and Russia reached a shared assessment on the amount and type of chemical weapons possessed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Kerry said.

Russia and the United States have agreed on the use of extraordinary procedures to expedite the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, Kerry said. Syria must agree to allow international experts unfettered access to its chemical weapons sites, he said. The stockpiles could be destroyed inside or outside Syria.

If Syria does not comply with the procedures to eliminate its chemical weapons, the threat of force will be included in a U.N. Security Council resolution, Kerry said. "We've committed to impose measures under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Security Council," he said. Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter leaves open the ultimate possibility for the Security Council to consider the use of force if Syria fails to comply.

The Syrian opposition plans to appoint a new interim prime minister Saturday, said Khalid Saleh, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition.

"What we are looking for at this point is an enforced transitional agreement where we take the power from the hands of the Assad regime and give it to the Syrian people," Saleh says.

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