U.S., Russia reach agreement on Syrian chemical weapons


It wasn’t easy, and there’s daunting work ahead, but as of this morning, negotiations in Geneva have produced a credible framework to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons.

The United States and Russia struck a deal Saturday under which Syria will allow its stockpile of chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by next year — easing a crisis over a threatened American military attack.

Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, announced the deal after a third day of talks in Geneva.

Under the deal, Syria must provide a full catalog of its chemical arsenal within a week and allow United Nations inspectors to start working no later than November. The plan envisions the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons by mid-2014.

The New York Times report added that the agreement was reached after arms-control officials from both sides literally worked through the night, “a process that recalled the treaty negotiations during the cold war.”

France and Britain welcomes the developments, and Kerry will meet with officials from both countries on Monday in Paris to discuss implementing the agreement. Likewise, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pledged his full support for the framework announced this morning.

Not surprisingly, there are questions about how complaint Syria will be, and what the consequences would be if the Assad government fails to comply. But under the framework, if Syria proves to be uncooperative, the matter would be referred to the U.N. Security Council.

That said, Syria is now required to release a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week – not 30 days, as was originally floated – with international inspectors having unfettered access on the ground in Syria by November.

The agreement is titled “Framework For Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons,” and it’s been published in its entirety online.

The crisis isn’t over, but the diplomatic solution took an important leap forward this morning. For all concerned, it’s heartening news — and a development that was hard to even fathom a week ago at this time.