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

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

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

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week