Is Syria's plan just a 'ruse'? David Cameron seeks urgent UN resolution to test proposal

PM fears plan to move Syria’s chemical weapons to internationally controlled sites inside the country could be 'delaying tactics' to buy time for Assad regime

Britain, America and France were calling on Russia tonight to back a binding UN resolution requiring Syria to surrender its chemical weapons within as little as 45 days.

Western diplomats in New York were still drawing up a resolution that would set a deadline for Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, to hand over control of his weapons stockpiles to international authorities.

And in what could become a test of the sincerity of Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, the resolution could potentially include authorisation for eventual force against Syria under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter should it not comply.

This is likely to be strongly opposed by Russia. Tonight President Putin insisted that the peace plan would only work “if the US and those who support it renounce the use of force”.  Ominously perhaps, Russia at the last minute withdrew a request for a Security Council meeting that had been set for tonight.

In another day of dizzying diplomatic activity, David Cameron and President Barack Obama announced that they would table a resolution at the UN Security Council encapsulating the proposal uttered first, almost as if by mistake, by Secretary of State John Kerry in London on Monday and then taken up in more urgent and concrete terms by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow.

Under the Russian plan Syria’s chemical weapons would be moved to internationally controlled sites inside the country where they could be destroyed. In an attempt to bolster its credibility, Syria said it would for the first time sign the Chemical Weapons Convention. Mr Kerry meanwhile plans to hold direct talks with Mr Lavrov in Geneva tomorrow.

In London, following a telephone call with Mr Obama, Mr Cameron told MPs he was sceptical about Russia’s intentions but suggested the proposals were worth exploring. “If we can achieve the removal and the destruction of the biggest chemical weapons arsenal in the world, that would be a significant step forward,” he said. “So it is definitely worth exploring but we must be sceptical, we must be careful, we must enter this with a very hard head and some pretty cool calculations, because we do not want this to be some delaying tactic, some ruse to just buy time for a regime that must act on chemical weapons.”

However government sources dismissed suggestions that the Prime Minister might return to Parliament to seek approval for the UK to join in military action should the Assad regime not comply.

In a tricky dual-track approach, President Obama was set in an address from the Oval Office tonight to reaffirm his case for military strikes against Syria while at the same time allowing space for a diplomatic solution. He earlier requested that votes in Congress on the issue be postponed pending diplomatic developments.

The plan for a non-violent solution was quickly embraced on Capitol Hill where Senate and House leaders were hastily revising a resolution to put to Congress authorising strikes to take the Russian plan into account.  It would set a deadline, possibly of 45 days, for the UN successfully to hold Syria to account and to secure all its chemical weapons. If the effort falls short then Mr Obama would be authorised to launch strikes.

But many things could still trip the effort, including Russian opposition to any Chapter 7 reference as well as any language explicitly condemning the Assad regime for using chemical weapons. Crucially, however, China tonight indicated its support at least for the notion of Syria giving up the weapons.

And then there is the question of Syrian compliance. The Syrian Prime Minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, and Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem, both said that Syria was ready to accept the plan and hand over all its chemical weapons. There was no word, however, from President Assad.

Mr Lavrov promised to move fast. “We are hoping to present this plan in the near future,” he said. “We will be ready to work through this plan and improve it with the participation of the UN Secretary General, chemical weapons control organisations and the members of the Security Council.”

Kerry stumbles across escape route from war

At times of crisis diplomats know to weigh and calibrate every word they utter, particularly if reporters are about.

Yet there was John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, telling a CBS correspondent out of the blue that if Syria surrendered “every single bit” of its chemical weapons arsenal this crisis would be over.

The remark got Washington scurrying. Do NOT take this seriously, the State Department advised in a media statement. 

Discipline, forward thinking, consideration of every possible consequence – all seem to have been lacking from the start.

From which buried synapse did Mr Kerry’s notion of Syria relinquishing its weapons come from exactly? It turns out the thought was not entirely random.

Barack Obama late on Monday revealed that pressuring Syria to hand over its weapons came up during a private meeting last Friday with Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg. Mr Kerry mis-spoke about a possible solution, Russia within hours ran with it, and maybe, just maybe, the escape hatch from war has been opened.

David Usborne

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Science teachers needed in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

English teachers required in Lowestoft

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits