UN Security Council Said to Agree on Syria Weapons Issues

The United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members have agreed on the most important elements of a draft resolution requiring Syria to surrender its chemical weapons, according to a UN diplomat.

The Security Council expects to settle remaining details and vote on adopting the resolution as soon as this week, said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential.

Envoys from the five veto-wielding Security Council members -- the U.S., U.K., Russia, France and China -- reached an accord on the most contentious issues during a lunch yesterday hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said a second UN diplomat who also asked not to be identified.

An accord on terms of a Security Council resolution has been complicated by disagreements between the U.S. and Russia over including the threat of punitive measures, up to military force, against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime if it fails to give up its chemical weapons for eventual destruction.

Russia has used its veto to block previous Security Council attempts to censure the Syrian regime for actions during a 2 1/2-year civil war that has left more than 90,000 dead and displaced millions of people.

Progress Made

Negotiators are making progress, though all the details of a final resolution haven’t been hammered out, said a U.S. official who asked not to be identified. The official said a resolution should be ready for a vote this week.

The executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons must decide on a road map for eliminating Syria’s stockpile before the Security Council acts. The OPCW may meet as early as tomorrow in The Hague to make a decision, according to the first diplomat.

U.S. and its European allies have sought, in a Security Council resolution, to include an enforcement provision under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter because of doubts that Assad will fully comply. Russia has resisted those demands, arguing that the use of force in other Mideast and North African nations, such as Libya, has caused more chaos in the region, not less.

A framework agreement reached this month in Geneva between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that, if Syria violates the disarmament plan, the Security Council should impose penalties, without specifying the actions to be taken.

Lavrov Comments

“We also agreed in Geneva with John Kerry that we will initiate a Security Council resolution which will support and reinforce the decision of the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Lavrov said in an interview with the Washington Post yesterday. “We will be very serious about any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria and those issues will be brought to the Security Council under Chapter 7” of the UN charter, he said.

The agreement with Russia averted a U.S. military strike against Syria to punish the regime for an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people, U.S. officials say. Russia and the Assad regime continue to insist that rebel groups were responsible for the attack, a claim that President Barack Obama dismissed as “fantasy” in remarks to the UN yesterday.

Lavrov told the Post he gave “a compilation of evidence” to support Russia’s position to Kerry yesterday. He described the materials as “reports by journalists who visited the sites and talked to the combatants who said they were given some unusual rockets and ammunition by some foreign country and they didn’t know how to use them.”

Nuns’ Evidence

“There is also evidence from the nuns living in the monastery nearby who visited the site,” Lavrov said in the interview. “You can read the assessments by the chemical weapons experts who say that the images shown do not correspond to a real situation if chemical weapons were used.”

The Russian minister said his nation’s goal is to keep Syria intact, secular and independent, not keeping Assad in power. “We are not wedded to anyone in Syria,” he said.

Assad has provided the chemical-weapons organization with an initial inventory and must allow inspectors starting next month to verify, secure and then eliminate the munitions under the U.S.-Russia timeline.

Kerry and Lavrov spent 90 minutes on Sept. 24 going over the language of a UN resolution. U.S. officials say the OPCW plan and the UN document must be closely matched to reduce the possibilities of friction and misunderstandings and make clear the procedures to be followed in the event Assad doesn’t comply.

Lingering Issues

Kerry told French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius yesterday that only three or four issues remained to be resolved on the resolution after the meeting with Lavrov.

Asked if the American and French ministers discussed the use of force, a State Department official who spoke on condition of not being identified said the discussion focused on the need for strong language in a UN resolution to enforce the Syrian regime’s compliance on turning over its chemical weapons.

The official said the debate, in the U.S. view, isn’t about the use of force and that Obama reserves the right to use force without UN approval, as do the French.

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