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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

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
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'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

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