Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced Saturday they reached a deal on chemical weapons in Syria.
In a joint press conference following talks in Geneva, Lavrov and Kerry said the Russian and U.S. delegations have arranged a package of agreements regarding the chemical weapons in Syria, but noted that these agreements are only proposals that should first be approved by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Lavrov clarified that Syria's decision to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and its readiness to implement its commitments by the time this decision is enforced formed a "starting point" for Russia and the US agreeing on the joint steps to deal with the chemical weapons in Syria.
He underscored that the Russia-US deal did not include talk on punishments or use of force, stressing that this deal "would and could help avoid any military scenarios".
"In that case there can't be talk on using force, and there was no talk about any punishments as this issue can only be discussed at the Security Council," said Lavrov, noting that Russia wants to work with the Americans side by side and foremost in the framework of the Executive Council of the OPCW.
"We now have to translate the agreements into a clear legal language, though the agreements first need to be approved and ratified," he noted.
"However, what matters now is that Russia and the US reached a deal quickly, which indicates that when there is an intention and a will for joint work, the two countries can make great successes, particularly in terms of preventing risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," said Lavrov.
He considered that the deal is very important with regard to the issue of "eliminating the chemical weapons arsenal in Syria", reiterating that this could help avert military action.
The Russian Foreign Minister clarified that the deal included a stress on the importance of the Security Council's support especially concerning the issues that are outside the framework of the OPCW, namely that of the safety conditions for the inspectors.
Lavrov pointed out that the inspectors' safety will be the responsibility of both the Syrian authorities and the opposition.
"We agreed that every violation of measures and every breach of provisions or any chemical weapons use would be discussed by the Security Council, which will then make suitable decisions," said Lavrov.
He considered that the deal between Russia and the US is only the start for finding the comprehensive solution to the chemical weapons issue in Syria.
"We stressed with John Kerry that we insist on the peaceful solution, and we held a meeting with [UN Envoy to Syria] Lakhdar Brahimi and we talked about these issues," Lavrov noted, voicing hope that the opposition announce its acceptance to participate in 'Geneva 2' international conference as did the Syrian government.
Lavrov renewed stress that the participation in Geneva 2 should include all the Syrian parties without preconditions, affirming that it is the Syrians who must determine their destiny by themselves.
He pointed out that many countries have supported Russia and the US's efforts seeking to solve the chemical weapons issue in Syria, expressing hope that solving this issue will be "an important step towards establishing a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction".
Asked on the details and explanation of the deal, Lavrov stressed that the documents put forth by Russia and the US today on the chemical weapons in Syria "do not need a translation or explanation" and cannot be alienable as they are proposals that need to be approved by the OPCW, and only then a date for the first visit to Syria to inspect chemical weapons sites will be set.
He pointed out that "the experts will quickly act to professionally allow control and destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons."
"We have decided to provide Security Council support to the decisions to be taken by the OPCW and come out with some other measures that reflect the peculiar nature of the Security Council's work," he added.
Lavrov said full implementation of the demands of the OPCW is expected and in case of non-compliance, including use of chemical weapons by any side, " the Security Council should take measures under a Chapter 7 resolution."
"This doesn’t mean, of course, that all the violations which reach the Council will require military action or sanctions," he added, noting that there are many fabrications regarding chemical weapons use in Syria.
"Therefore, we must be careful when talking about violations," Lavrov stressed, adding that when any such violations are verified, "Russian will be ready to take part in the Security Council resolution because irresponsible acts must be punished."
He noted that he spoke with UN former envoy to Syria Kofi Annan about suspicious information about possible attempts to embellish the UN experts' report on the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria in August.
"There are some who are trying to put some touches on the report in favor of a certain party," said Lavrov, pointing out that he expressed to Annan Russia's concern over "the attempts to frustrate the peace efforts regarding the Middle East and Syria, including the joint efforts."
He criticized UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for contradicting himself when saying that he cannot reveal the core of this report, while he appears making accusations against the Syrian government.
"This is considered an attempt to thwart our meeting here in Geneva," said Lavrov, stressing that nobody should be allowed to talk about the Syrian government being responsible for the alleged chemical weapons use in al-Ghouta before the UN investigators' results come out.
In this regard, Lavrov stressed that the UN investigators should head to Syria to continue the investigation in the cases of chemical weapons use.
The Russian Foreign Minister stressed that despite differences between Russian and the US, both countries want Syria to remain a secular state where people of various ethnicities and religions live in co-existence.
For his part, the US Secretary of State noted that the US and Russia reached a solution that allows destroying the chemical weapons in Syria to end the threat posed by these weapons and prevent their proliferation in the region, which would secure stability and peace in the world.
Kerry clarified the steps agreed upon by the Russian and U.S. sides in terms of specifying the quantities of weapons in Syria and quickly complying with having the international community taking over them.
He highlighted that Syria should immediately submit comprehensive information to the OPCW and allow inspection of all its sites by the international community.
Kerry said the Russian and U.S. sides agreed on destroying all chemical weapons with the possibility of having this done outside Syria, referring to a side agreement on the method of destruction and control.
He pointed out that the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria will be as soon as possible and with the safest possible means, adding that the Syrian response is expected to be within a week and that additional details will be requested from the Syrian government in the comign days.
Kerry stressed that the UN should provide support to the OPCW to help it in destroying the chemical weapons in Syria, noting that response to non-compliance would be pressure through the UN Security Council Chapter 7.
He considered that the deal reached today will be one of first serious steps to prevent bloodshed and find a solution to the crisis in Syria.
He stressed that the US and Russia see eye to eye on that there is no military solution to the crisis in Syria and that the solution should be political through negotiations and diplomacy.
Kerry said he spoke at length with his Russian counterpart about the importance of creating the conditions to implement what was agreed upon at Geneva1 conference, noting that both sides agreed to meet on the sidelines of the Security Council meeting to bring together parallel efforts.
The U.S. Secretary of State indicated that "the experts have to work on site in October to complete the destruction or elimination of the chemical weapons in Syria by next year,'' adding that not meeting the timetable will prompt a referral to the UN Security Council to discuss the procedures to be taken as ''the agreement stipulates that non-compliance will carry consequences according to Chapter 7.''
''It is not possible to agree on the penalties because of the circumstances that we know nothing about yet, but we've agreed on everything and there will be new procedures and a new work team,'' Kerry said.
''Of importance to the world is to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria, therefore we worked with confidence towards positive outcomes.''
Kerry considered that the government and opposition will be responsible for allowing the experts to work in their areas and ensuring their safety and security. ''All areas in Syria must be accessible for the experts.''
Kerry clarified that the efforts in the chemical weapons issue will be global as ''many partners in the world will help us, and the expeditious commitment to this will test the international community's compliance with the convention of chemical weapons and the weapons of mass destruction."
Commenting on this international drive, Lavrov said ''Some countries are capable and ready to finance wars, but I am sure that there are countries ready to finance the peaceful solution.''
Lavrov: Putin and Obama agreed to exchange assessments on chemical weapons in Syria
In an interview given to the Russian TV, Lavrov said that the Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama have agreed on exchanging assessments regarding the chemical weapons in Syria through the proper channels.
Lavrov said that Putin and Obama agreed to exchange assessments and information on the chemical arsenal in Syria, and that the US administration had contacted the Syrian government directly more than once for clarifications on the state of chemical weapons in Syria, as Russia did as well before.
He pointed out that the main step towards an agreement on placing chemical weapons in Syria under international supervision, which is preparing documents to provide to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was taken by Damascus.
"No matter the attitude towards this issue, as Americans are saying that this only happened because of the threat of using force, it doesn't matter to us. What matters is that Damascus announced its joining the chemical weapons prohibition convention without any conditions," Lavrov said.
Later on, President Obama welcomed, in a statement, the Russian-US agreement on the chemical weapons in Syria.
Russia Today quoted Obama as saying that the agreement was an important step toward getting chemical weapons in Syria under international control so they can ultimately be destroyed.