U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave a joint press conference yesterday, explaining that they had come to consensus relating to a framework that could move forward a United Nations Security Council Resolution on the chemical weapons crisis in Syria.
Mr. Kerry made clear that while this framework may represent an ambitious goal, there are certain timelines that are attached to it.
“Our agreement today strengthens the OPCW – the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons Executive Council decision to use the Chemical Weapons Convention extraordinary procedures in order to ensure full implementation. In the event of noncompliance, we have committed to impose measures under Chapter 7 within the UN Security Council.
One of the stated goals withing the framework is that “the inspectors must be on the ground no later than November. And the goal is to complete the destruction and removal – and/or removal by halfway through next year, 2014.”
There is also a specific agreement between Russia and the United States that should any noncompliance on the part of Syria occur, with respect to accountability, it would then give rise further debate within the Security Council under Chapter 7, with the prospect of measures commensurate with the situation.
Although it is not normal Chemical Weapons Convention procedure, this resolution would specifically include the provision that there is to be “UN administrative and logistical support to the OPCW for inspections and destruction,” and that the inspectors are to have “unfettered access” as part of the process, so that it covers both verifiability and accountability.
”I think the President sending me here and directing me to work with my counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, as President Putin sent him here, indicates that both presidents believe the preferred route, which I think is the preferred route of most of the citizens of the world, is to find a peaceful solution to these kinds of conflicts. And that’s what I think we have worked in good faith to try to do here today."
In his turn, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that the two men had reached consensus partly due to conversations that took place at the G20 Leaders Meeting in St. Petersburg on August 5, 2013:
“I just want to state that it’s a decision based on a consensus and a compromise and professionalism. And we have achieved an aim that we had in front of us, in front of our presidents when they talked on the 5th of September, on Friday, in the margins of the G-20 in St. Petersburg, and that later was announced, just not long ago, on the 8th of September, in – on Monday, and the aim is to resolve the solution to put under international control the arsenals of chemical weapons in Syria.
Acknowledging that the discussion proceeded in a timely fashion, Mr. Lavrov noted that they had focused as professionals in order to try to forge a way to have the international community assume stewardship of the chemical weapons arsenal in Syria, in the “furtherance of its destruction.”
Importantly, the Russian Foreign Minister also calls upon all of the people of Syria and their like-minded allies, to look to the prospect of a resolution to the conflict:
“In our proposals, we noted that the main responsibilities will bear the Syrian authorities. But not only them, also other Syrian parties. The opposition should respond to not creating threats to international personnel. And of course, the international personnel must gain the necessary authority.”
It certainly would seem to be in the interests of all parties to continue on the path to a diplomatic resolution.
Having recently learned from Damascus of Syria’s decision to join the Convention on Chemical Weapons, Mr. Lavrov noted the readiness of Damascus to make this kind of formal commitment. Explaining further about the procedure for moving forward toward the presentation of a formal resolution, from the basic framework that has now been agreed upon between Russia and the United States, Foreign Minister Lavrov said:
“We have agreed on the mutual steps that our delegations are going to do in – within the organization, OPCW, according to the procedures of it are enlisted in the CWC, that permit operatively and without any delays, without any difficulties, to resolve the objectives of destruction of chemical arsenals.
We hope that the members of the Executive Committee of the OPCW will share our approaches, the Russian approaches and the American approaches, and to adopt a decision on measures about the chemical weapons in Syria.
We also agreed that we need the support of the activity of OPCW and the Security Council UN, especially on the matters that go beyond the OPCW. And I would like to mention a very important thing of ensuring the safety of work of inspectors."
Foreign Minister Lavrov also indicated that the two gentlemen had discussions with Lakhdar Brahimi -- the International Envoy from Syria who also hosted the discussions in Geneva, Switzerland -- on the prospects of moving forward and had recommended that the opposition, too, should participate.
Both Russia and the United States share the belief that the Syrian people must resolve their differences on their own, as soon as possible.
Mr. Lavrov noted that support for this resolution framework is welcomed not only from many countries, but "all the countries of the world." he also remarked about the process of their coming to consensus:
"And this agreement, which needs universal mechanisms, insurance – but we have agreed on it in very brief time, and we – and it shows that when there is a voluntary – that where there’s a will, when we have intent of the states, when we have friendly relations, Russia and the United States can get results on the most important problems, including the weapons of mass destruction problem.
And the successful realization of this agreement will have meaning not only from the point of view of the common goal of liquidating and destructing all arsenals of chemical weapons, but also to avoid the military scenario that would be catastrophic for this region and for the international relations on the whole. And here, with my colleague John Kerry, we have strictly approved our commitment of the regulation situation in Syria."
Finally, Mr. Lavrov explained that a resolution on chemical weapons in Syria represents a significant step in for the Middle East. He was encouraged by the notion that Russia and the United States could agree to a way forward for a conference in coordination with the Organization for the Prevention of Nuclear Weapons and with the United Nations, which had been hoped for in 2012; and that at this point, everyone who has any influence on those parties who should participate in such a conference, should exert that influence toward that "important objective," which is so crucial to nonproliferation, so that it can be ultimately resolved.
The full text of both Mr. Lavrov's remarks and Mr. Kerry's remarks is available at the website for the U.S. Department of State.