The Obama administration and Russia reached a deal Saturday to compel Syria to account for and eventually destroy its chemical weapons arsenal, leaving open the possibility that the UN could authorize sanctions or military action for future violations.
The deal announced in Geneva by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov provides a path for President Obama to avoid the air strikes he had promised to launch againt Syria for its recent use of sarin gas on civilians in a Damascus suburb.
“We have committed to a standard that says, verify and verify,” Kerry said during a news conference with his Russian counterpart, according to The Associated Press.
The president has been backpedaling from the threat of air strikes to punish Syrian leader Bashar Assad in the absence of support inside Congress, or from the American public and U.S. allies.
The deal includes a timetable and specific actions Syria must take comply. Kerry said the U.S. and Russia had agreed on grounds under which they might request a Security Council “Chapter 7” resolution — authorizing both military and non-military sanctions.
The U.S. and Russia are two of the five permanent Security Council members with a veto. The others are Britain, China, and France.
Kerry said any violations will result in “measures” from the Security Council, while Lavrov said the violations must be sent to the Security Council from the board of the chemical weapons convention before sanctions — short of the use of force — would be considered.
Lavrov called the agreements a “decision based on consensus and compromise and professionalism.”
“Any violations of procedures … would be looked at by the Security Council and if they are approved, the Security Council would take the required measures, concrete measures,” Lavrov said. “Nothing is said about the use of force or about any automatic sanctions. All violations should be approved by the Security Council.”
Kerry said the pair and their teams of experts had reached “a shared assessment” of Syria’s weapons stockpile and that Syria must destroy all of its weapons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.john