UN approves deal on Syria’s chemical weapons
Resolution lacks immediate consequences if President Bashar al-Assad fails to comply
United Nations vehicles carry members of a chemical weapons investigation team in the Syrian carry Damascus today. Photograph: Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters
British foreign secretary William Hague and US secretary of state John Kerry vote on a resolution regarding Syria’s chemical weapons programme at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York last night. Photograph: Joshua Lott/Getty Images
Members of the United Nations Security Council raise their hands as they vote unanimously to approve a resolution eradicating Syria’s chemical arsenal in New York last night. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters
The council voted 15-0 last night to adopt a resolution drafted by the US, the UK and France in response to an August 21st gas attack near Damascus that killed more than 1,400 people.
The resolution lacks immediate consequences if Syrian president Bashar al-Assad fails to comply and it doesn’t assign blame for the attack, which US, UK and French officials attribute to his regime.
Russia, a Syrian ally, has said rebels were responsible for the attack and blocked tougher wording in the resolution. Russian vetoes of previous UN attempts to sanction Dr Assad made last night’s vote the first diplomatic breakthrough at the UN since Syria’s civil war began over two years ago.
“For many months, I have said that the confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria required a firm, united and decisive response,” UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon told reporters after the session. “Tonight, the international community has delivered.”
US secretary of dtate John Kerry said Syria must “give unfettered access” to its chemical-weapons stockpile and will face repercussions if it fails to comply. Those responsible for the use of such munitions will be punished, he said. ‘Heinous Act’
“This resolution makes clear that those responsible for this heinous act must be held accountable,” Mr Kerry told the Security Council after the vote. “We are here because actions have consequences and now, should the regime fail to act, there will be consequences.”
As a next step, Mr Ban said the UN will seek to convene peace talks by mid-November between Dr Assad’s government and opposition representatives.
British foreign minister William Hague said Syria also must provide “unfettered access” to humanitarian relief efforts seeking to aid civilians suffering from the impact of war.
Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s UN ambassador, told reporters after the vote that his government is “on board” and committed to helping chemical-weapons inspectors and ensuring their safety.
Syria is “fully committed” to peace talks, Mr Jaafari said.
The Security Council voted after the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the world body in The Hague that monitors compliance with a global treaty banning the munitions, adopted a blueprint to verify, remove, and destroy Dr Assad’s arsenal of sarin and other chemical weapons by mid-2014.
The organisation’s 41-nation executive council spent almost two weeks in closed-door discussions as the US, its allies and Russia debated the text of the UN resolution.
A US official who spoke on condition of not being identified said it was crucial for the Netherlands-based group’s plan to be complete before the Security Council vote because the two documents complement each other.
The organisation in The Hague said its executive council agreed on an “accelerated programme” for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons and related material and will begin inspections in Syria by Octobver 1st.
“This decision sends an unmistakable message that the international community is coming together to work for peace in Syria, beginning with the elimination of chemical weapons in that country,” OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said in a statement.