US, Russia agree to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons
The long intensive negotiations between Russia and the United States in Geneva on the issue of chemical weapons of Syria have reached a deal on a timetable for the fast elimination of Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, with the provision that the non-compliance by Damascus would mean that the United Nations Security Council will direct the future course of action.
What is the agreement between Russia and the United States on Syria’s chemical weapons?
The framework agreement envisages that all Syrian chemical weapons will either be removed or destroyed by the middle of 2014. By November 2013, the inspectors belonging to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the UN and other supporting staff enter Syria. They will have the authority to inspect any and all sites in the country. The security of inspectors will be the responsibility of Syrian government and the opposition. The disposal of chemical weapons will take place under the embedded guidelines of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The agreement is in the direction to create a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction —a move that would also cover the elimination of Israel’s atomic weapon stockpiles. As per experts, a zone free of mass destruction weapons in West Asia would encourage Syria to cooperate as it had stockpiled chemical weapons to deter a nuclear armed Israel.
Under the plan, the Syrian government has been given one week to handover the stock of its chemical weapons arsenal. The deal covers not only the destruction of weapons but also capabilities to produce and refine chemical arms. In turn, Syria will become a member of the OPCW, which outlaws the production and use of these arms.
What if Damascus is unable to abide by the provisions of the agreement?
There are differences between the US and Russia over the role of the Security Council in case the Syrian government is unable to strictly abide by the provisions of the agreement. While the Russians are not in favor of penalizing Syria under Chapter VII provisions of the UN charter that allow the use of force, the US thinks that the provision could be invoked that allow “action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security” in the event other measures don’t work.