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.
Here are the latest developments:
–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.
Chemical weapons report
–U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to present a U.N. chemical weapons inspectors report on Syria at 11 a.m. Monday to members of the Security Council, three diplomatic sources said.
– The report delves into chemical weapons used on August 21 on the outskirts of Damascus. Noting the fluidity of the situation, the sources said Friday night that the timing of the presentation could change.
– Ban said he believes findings from U.N. inspectors – expected to be released next week – “will be an overwhelming report that chemical weapons were used.”
– Referring to the surprise one-day extension of the Kerry and Lavrov talks into Saturday, a senior State Department official said, “If there was no opening, we wouldn’t still be here.” An official in President Barack Obama’s administration hinted at progress, saying, “We are coming closer to agreement on the scope of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.”
– The United Nations on Friday provided a time frame for Syria in its quest for accession, or membership, in the Chemical Weapons Convention:
– U.N. lawyers are looking over Syria’s request.
–Once that request is deemed legally sufficient, Syria automatically becomes a convention member. The legal review could take days or weeks.
– After 30 days from Syria’s accession, the convention is legally binding on Syria and it must permit inspections.
– After another 30 days – which would be 60 days from when it formally joined the convention – Syria would have to declare its chemical weapons stockpiles.
– All chemical weapons stocks must be disposed of within a decade.
– Kerry said they will gauge whether it is possible to find a date for a Geneva II conference when they meet around September 28. Forging that conference will “obviously depend on the capacity to have success here in the next day, hours, days, on the subject of the chemical weapons,” he said.
– After his talks conclude in Geneva, Kerry will head to Israel and then to Paris – where he’ll meet with the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Saudi Arabia – before returning to Washington on Monday.
– The White House expects to know within several weeks if the talks aimed at having the international community obtain and destroy the Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile will be successful, senior Obama administration officials say. Still, the fact that this is being discussed diplomatically is a deterrent in itself, the officials said.
–Lavrov said he regrets that the communique that came out of the June 2012 Geneva meeting was “basically abandoned” and not endorsed in the U.N. Security Council. But he praised Kerry, saying he “understood the importance of moving on Syria and doing something about this.”
– Lavrov praised Kerry for traveling to Moscow on May 7 “when we launched the Russian-American initiative to convene a Geneva conference and to implement fully the Geneva communique.”
–The communique, Lavrov said, means that “Syrian parties must reach mutual consent on the transitional governing organs which would command full executive authority. And the communique also says that all groups of Syrian society must be represented.”
– Continuing an at times tense back-and-forth between the two countries, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the United States is “unaccustomed” to competition in the world, according to a report from Russia’s official RIA Novosti news agency. Speaking on the heels of a New York Times op-ed by by Russian President Vladimir Putin that was critical of Washington, Peskov said, “Putin never preaches to anyone. Meanwhile, our American partners and friends in the past several decades have grown too used to patting everyone on the back patronizingly.”
– Meanwhile, the Russian navy is adding three additional warships in the Mediterranean Sea, bringing its total there to 10 warships, its top commander told state-run RIA Novosti.
Ban Ki-moon remarks
–U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be held accountable for crimes but stressed that the first priority in dealing with Syria is stopping the war and promoting dialogue.
– “What happened is that he (al-Assad) has committed many crimes against humanity and therefore I am sure there will be surely a process of accountability when everything is over,” Ban said on Friday.
CNN’s Joe Sterling, Saad Abedine, Nick Paton Walsh, Hamdi Alkhshali and Samira Said contributed to this report