GENEVA — Washington and Moscow have agreed a deal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
In a joint news conference wrapping up three days of negotiations, Kerry said under the pact Syria must submit a "comprehensive listing" of its chemical weapons stockpiles within one week. Arms inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November with the goal of eliminating the country's chemical weapons by mid-2014, Kerry said.
The U.S.-Russian deal contains nothing about the potential use of force if Syria fails to comply, Lavrov said and Kerry said there was no pre-agreement on what action the U.N. Security Council might take if Syria fails to comply with the plan, which envisages a complete destruction of its chemical weapons by mid-2014.
Kerry and Lavrov said if Syrian President Bashar Assad does not comply with the agreement, which must be finalized by the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, it would face consequences under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, the part that covers sanctions and military action.
Kerry said there was no agreement on what those measures would be. U.S. President Barack Obama, he said, reserves the right to use military force in Syria.
"There's no diminution of options," he said.
Kerry said the pair and their teams of experts had reached "a shared assessment" of the existing stockpile and that Syria must destroy all of its weapons.
Kerry said "we have committed to a standard that says, verify and verify."
"Providing this framework is fully implemented it can end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but also their neighbors," Kerry said.
"Because of the threat of proliferation this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world," he said.
The negotiations between the United States and Russia on securing Syria's chemical weapons also are considered key to a resumption of peace talks to end the 2½-year Syrian civil war.
"The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its commitments. . . There can be no room for games. Or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime," he added.
Syrian state media broadcast the Kerry and Lavrov news conference live, indicating that Damascus is satisfied with the deal.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier that a report by U.N. chemical weapons experts would confirm that poison gas was used in the Aug. 21 attack. Ban also said that Assad "has committed many crimes against humanity", although he did not say whether it was Assad's forces or rebels who used the gas.
The original drive for a political solution to the conflict, dubbed the "Geneva Plan" and calling for a transitional government, went nowhere as Assad refused to cede power and the opposition insisted he could not be a part of any new political order.
The latest talks prompted Obama to put on hold his plans for U.S. air strikes in response to the chemical weapons attack. Obama is now also spared facing a vote in Congress on military action that he had appeared increasingly likely to lose at this stage.
Experts say removing Syria's hundreds of tons of chemical weapons, scattered in secret installations, will pose huge technical problems in the middle of a civil war.
Lavrov said the talks had achieved an aim set out by the countries' presidents at the G20 summit.
"The aim has been achieved that was set in a conversation between our presidents on September 5 on the sidelines of the G20 . . . about putting under international control Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons," Lavrov said at the press conference.
France, which had joined the U.S. in calling for armed action against Syria, welcomed the American-Russian deal as an "important step forward" and said that talks on Monday in Paris would focus on its implementation.
"The draft agreement reached in Geneva about eliminating the Syrian regime's chemical weapons is an important step forward," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement shortly after the deal was struck.
Fabius added that France would clarify its position based on the findings of U.N. weapons inspectors' investigation into a chemical gas attack in Syria last month.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the U.S.-Russian agreement and said urgent work would now take place to implement the plan.
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