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Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, from left, UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appear during a news conference following their meeting at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday.

US-Russia reach agreement on Syria weapons

GENEVA – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday they have reached an agreement on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons, and would seek a U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize sanctions – short of military action – if President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply.

The diplomats announced on the third day of intense negotiations in Geneva that some elements of the deal include a timetable and how Syria must comply.

Notably, Kerry said they had agreed on grounds under which they might request a Security Council “Chapter 7” resolution, which could include 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.

Lavrov called the agreements a “decision based on consensus and compromise and professionalism.” But with Russia almost certain to veto any resolution that included military action, Lavrov indicated the limits of using that potential action.

“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,” he added.

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.

At a news conference at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, Kerry said the inspectors must be on the ground by November and destruction or removal of the chemical weapons must be completed by mid-2014.

“We have committed to a standard that says, verify and verify,” he said.

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 negotiations between the United States and Russia on securing Syria’s chemical weapons also are considered key to a resumption of peace talks to end the 2 61/27-year Syrian civil war.

The agreement on a Russian proposal to inventory, isolate and eventually destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stocks comes as the Obama administration warned that there is a timetable for a diplomatic resolution of the weapons issue.

A major sticking point was how to account for Syria’s chemical weapons inventory, but in marathon sessions into early morning hours the U.S. and Russia succeeded in narrowing their differences over what each country believes to be the size of the Syrian stockpiles.

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