President Barack Obama said a framework agreement between the U.S. and Russia represents a “concrete step” toward eliminating Syria’s chemical arsenal.
“This framework provides the opportunity for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in a transparent, expeditious and verifiable manner, which could end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but to the region and the world,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
The U.S. “remains prepared to act” if diplomacy fails, Obama said in the statement. Under terms of the deal reached today in Geneva, Syria must destroy its chemical weapons by mid-2014, and the U.S. retains the right to use military force to ensure compliance.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has a week to provide an inventory of the chemical weapons he denied having a week ago, and inspections must begin by mid-November.
United Nations Security Council approval would also be needed to impose any sanctions.
“The international community expects the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments,” Obama said.
The president, who put a pause on military action in favor of diplomacy on Sept. 10, said the U.S. will work with Russia, the U.K., France, the UN and others to ensure compliance by Syria is verified.
“There are consequences should the Assad regime not comply with the framework agreed today,” the president said. “And, if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”
In Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a press conference that “there can be no games, no room for avoidance or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime.”
The agreement came after three days of negotiations with Kerry’s Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
Obama had twice delayed possible U.S. military intervention and still preserves that right, Kerry said.
A U.S. intelligence assessment said Assad regime’s used sarin gas to kill more than 1,400 men, women, and children on August 21.
“The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere,” Obama said today. “We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children.”
Obama credited the threat of U.S. military force as leading to a diplomatic breakthrough. He said he spoke to Kerry and Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, to thank them for their efforts.