Syria crisis: US warns Assad regime of ‘consequences’ of breaking chemical weapons deal

In a dramatic breakthrough during US-Russian talks, Syria has been given a week to account for all chemical weapons and let inspectors in

New York

Barack Obama has welcomed the news of a deal brokered in Geneva that will see Syria's chemical weapons brought under international control, but warned of “consequences” if the Assad regime fails to comply.

The US and Russia have overcome their differences and agreed to put Syria on a short leash, giving it one week to account for all of its chemical weapons, to submit to surrendering them for destruction according to a strict timetable, and to give international inspectors “unfettered access” to its territory.

Mr Obama described the agreed framework as a “concrete step”, and said the rest of the world "expects the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments”.

But he does not rule out the US taking military action against Syria in future, particularly if its government does not stick to the timetable it has been given. The president said there would be “consequences should the Assad regime not comply with the framework agreed today”.

“And, if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act,” Mr Obama said.

The deal, announced after three days of tense talks in Geneva, represents a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough. In the best scenario, officials said, it could open the way also to bringing all sides in the conflict to the table for comprehensive peace talks. It was, however, instantly dismissed by the opposition Syrian Military Council.

Both sides had to bridge wide divides over the scope of the Syrian arsenal and the way in which the deal will be enforced. The US may have made the largest concession, acknowledging that while a United Nations resolution implementing the deal would be adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, theoretically authorising possible military action if Syria failed to comply, it would not seek such authorisation, nor expect language on military enforcement in the text.

As Mr Obama has confirmed, however, that does not mean the US could not return to considering unilateral military strikes if the agreement jumped the rails. “There can be no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime,” declared the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who negotiated the agreement with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

Mr Kerry is due to travel to Israel on Sunday to explain the details of the agreement to the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and will then go to Paris for talks tomorrow with the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, and British Foreign Secretary, William Hague.

Mr Hague welcomed the agreement, describing it as a “significant step forward”. He said it should be followed by swift action to begin the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons – reportedly scattered around the country – to international control.

“The priority must now be full and prompt implementation of the agreement, to ensure the transfer of Syria’s chemical weapons to international control. The onus is now on the Assad regime to comply with this agreement in full. The international community, including Russia, must hold them to account. This includes doing everything we can to stop the continuing bloodshed in Syria, bringing all sides together to agree a political solution to the conflict.”

The team of UN inspectors who investigated the suspected chemical weapons attack of 21 August will deliver its report to the Security Council in New York on Monday.

Under the terms of the arrangement, Syria will have seven days – until next Saturday – to submit “a comprehensive listing, including names, types and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and local and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities”.

UN inspectors will then need to visit Syrian sites by November and complete a first assessment of the country’s chemical inventory by the end of that month.

In the longer term, all of Syria’s chemical capacity, including delivery systems, the chemicals and precursors, and other equipment, would have to be destroyed or removed from Syrian territory by mid-2014, an optimistic timetable that assumes Damascus does not engage in the kind of cat-and-mouse games with which inspectors who were in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq are so familiar.

The deal comes at the end of a dizzying week of diplomatic developments that kicked off with Mr Kerry saying in almost off-hand fashion in London, on Monday, that Syria could avoid US strikes if it gave up all of its chemical arsenal. Within hours, Russia had seized on the idea, and by Thursday, Damascus had for the first time acknowledged having such weapons and even joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. In his weekly radio message, President Barack Obama had said yesterday that Syria must show “concrete actions” to confirm its sincerity.

The head of the Syrian Military Council, General Selim Idris, condemned the deal for allegedly letting President Bashar al-Assad off the hook for the 21 August attack, and said Syria had begun moving some of its chemical weapons equipment over the borders into Iraq and Lebanon in the hope of fooling inspectors.  The claim could not be verified.

“All of this initiative does not interest us,” General Idris said. “Russia is a partner with the regime in killing the Syrian people. A crime against humanity has been committed and there is not any mention of accountability.”

But Mr Kerry said; “Providing this effort is fully implemented, it can end the threat that these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but to their neighbours, to the region ... and the world.” But the inspection effort will be unprecedented in terms of danger and difficulty, and will need cooperation from the regime and rebel groups too. “This is very, very difficult, very, very difficult,” one US official in Geneva was quoted as saying. “But it is doable.”

The framework agreed today will only have the force of law when backed by a UN resolution that will go to the Security Council for debate this week.

Mr Lavrov said he expects the limits on possible sanctions against Syria for non-compliance to be clear.  “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,” he commented. “Nothing is said about the use of force or about any automatic sanctions.”

And he added his own note of caution today. “We understand that the decisions we have reached today are only the beginning of the road,” he said. He and Mr Kerry plan to meet again on the fringes of the annual UN General Assembly that begins next week in New York to consider how to move forward with a putative peace conference, prospects for which have been essentially moribund until now.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
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

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering