US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have announced a deal to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons. The countries had largely taken opposing sides in Syria's conflict.
The joint announcement came just hours into a third day of talks in Geneva aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians in August.
"We have agreed to destroy all chemical weapons including the possibility for removing weapons for destruction outside of Syria," Kerry said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left in photo) and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov (right), had begun their meeting just after 10 a.m. (0800 UTC) in Geneva.
Lavrov described the talks, on a matter where Washington and Moscow have rarely agreed in 30 months, as "excellent," thanked Kerry in particular for his cooperation, and said the two permanent UN Security Council members had "confirmed adherence to a peaceful resolution" in Syria.
Kerry said that the deal would include "extraordinary procedures in order to ensure full implementation," including tying the deal to Chapter 7 of the UN Security Council. This chapter stipulates that the UN can take economic and diplomatic steps to ensure compliance, with Article 42 permitting the use of "air, sea, or land forces" if other measures "would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate."
"The inspectors must be on the ground no later than November," Kerry said of a future chemical weapons team. "And the goal is to establish the removal by halfway through next year."
The issue of a timeline for inspection, and whether or not to tie a deal to Chapter 7, were seen as the key sticking points going into the third day of talks in Geneva.
Ahead of the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admitted to some doubts on whether Syria would respect a deal in an interview with television station France 24. Ban said President Bashar al-Assad had responded "positively" so far, "but at the same time I sense in the international community some sense of skepticism," which, he said, "I also share."
Now, the US and Russia aim to bring together Assad's representatives and the opposition to agree on a political transition to end the civil war that grew from a string of public protests against Assad's government in March 2011. Kerry and Lavrov will meet again in two weeks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, with the hope of setting a date for the stalled peace conference.
mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)