Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday after he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced their agreement on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons.
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Anti-war activists rally for peace in Los Angeles last week. A breakthrough agreement on the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons was announced by the U.S. and Russia early Saturday, averting a military strike for the time being.
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WHAT MAINE’S DELEGATION SAID
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: “I welcome the news from Geneva that Russia and the United States have reached a tentative agreement that could lead to the elimination of Assad’s chemical weapons. If the plan is fully and verifiably implemented, it would be more effective than the limited military attack originally proposed by the President. I believe that the tough questions that many of us raised about the President’s planned military strikes encouraged the Administration to explore non-military alternatives. It is now incumbent upon the Assad regime to keep its commitments and cease its brutal assaults on the Syrian people.”
SEN. ANGUS KING: “I’m very pleased to learn that diplomatic efforts between the United States and Russia have produced a framework for the expeditious identification and elimination of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal. A diplomatic solution to eliminate his chemical weapons capabilities is preferable to a military one, and is doubly important because it would also remove the possibility of the weapons falling into opposition hands if Assad loses power.”
REP. CHELLIE PINGREE: “This diplomatic solution may accomplish what military intervention never would have: the complete destruction of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons. I congratulate Secretary Kerry and the Obama Administration on this major diplomatic achievement.”
Kerry and Lavrov emphasized that the deal sends a strong message not just to Syria but to the world, too, that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.
Lavrov added, cautiously, "We understand that the decisions we have reached today are only the beginning of the road."
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the negotiations, said the U.S. and Russia agreed that Syria had roughly 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons agents and precursors, including blister agents, such as sulfur and mustard gas and nerve agents like sarin.
These officials said the two sides did not agree on the number of chemical weapons sites in Syria.
U.S. intelligence believes Syria has about 45 sites associated with chemicals weapons, half of which have "exploitable quantities" of material that could be used in munitions. The Russian estimate is considerably lower; the officials would not say by how much.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe all the stocks remain in government control, the officials said.
Noncompliance by the Assad government or any other party would be referred to the 15-nation Security Council by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. That group oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria this past week agreed to join. The U.N. received Syria's formal notification Saturday and it would be effect Oct. 14.
The weapons group's director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu, spoke of adopting "necessary measures" to put in place "an accelerated program to verify the complete destruction" of Syria's chemical weapons, production facilities and "other relevant capabilities."
The U.S. and Russia are two of the five permanent Security Council members with a veto. The others are Britain, China, and France.
"There is an agreement between Russia and the United States that non-compliance is going to be held accountable within the Security Council under Chapter 7," Kerry said. "What remedy is chosen is subject to the debate within the council, which is always true. But there's a commitment to impose measures."
Lavrov indicated there would be limits to using such a resolution.
"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."
Kerry spoke of a commitment, in the event of Syrian noncompliance, to "impose measures commensurate with whatever is needed in terms of the accountability."
The agreement offers no specific penalties. Given that a thorough investigation of any allegation of noncompliance is required before any possible action, Moscow could drag out the process or veto measures it deems too harsh.
Kerry stressed that the U.S. believes the threat of force is necessary to back the diplomacy, and U.S. officials have Obama retains the right to launch military strikes without U.N. approval to protect American national security interests.
"I have no doubt that the combination of the threat of force and the willingness to pursue diplomacy helped to bring us to this moment," Kerry said.
But a leading U.S. senator expressed concerns that without the threat of force, it's not clear "how Syrian compliance will be possible under the terms of any agreement."
Republican lawmaker Bob Corker of Tennessee said Syria's "willingness to follow through is very much an open question" and he did not want the negotiations to signal a "retreat from our broader national interests," including support for "moderate" opposition forces in Syria.
U.N. inspectors were preparing to submit their own report. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that he expected "an overwhelming report" that chemical weapons were indeed used on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21.
A U.N. statement said Ban hoped the agreement will prevent further use of such weapons and "help pave the path for a political solution to stop the appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people."
Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, said Saturday's development was "a significant step forward." Germany believes that "if deeds now follow the words, the chances of a political solution will rise significantly," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.
The commander of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, Gen. Salim Idris, said in Turkey that the Russian initiative would "buy time" and that rebels will continue "fighting the regime and work for bringing it down."
He said that if international inspectors come to Syria in order to inspect chemical weapons, "we will facilitate their passages but there will be no cease-fire." The FSA will not block the work of U.N. inspectors, he said, and the "inspectors will not be subjected to rebel fire when they are in regime-controlled areas."
Idris said Kerry told him by telephone that "the alternative of military strikes is still on the table."
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands Saturday after making statements at a news conference following meetings regarding Syria in Geneva, Switzerland.
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