The US and Russia reached a joint agreement Saturday on an outline for the identification and seizure of Syria’s chemical weapons. The agreement also calls for Syria to turn over an accounting of its arsenal within a week. This agreement comes as rebel leaders say Bashar al-Assad’s forces have started moving some of their chemical weapons to Lebanon and Iraq (the same country we ‘liberated’) to avoid possible United Nations inspection. Reuters reports that General Selim Idris said rebel brigades regard the proposed U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Assad’s chemical arsenal as a blow to their two-and-a-half-year uprising to remove Assad.
Here’s an excerpt from the State Department press release on the agreement:
Taking into account the decision of the Syrian Arab Republic to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the commitment of the Syrian authorities to provisionally apply the Convention prior to its entry into force, the United States and the Russian Federation express their joint determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program (CW) in the soonest and safest manner.
For this purpose, the United States and the Russian Federation have committed to prepare and submit in the next few days to the Executive Council of the OPCW a draft decision setting down special procedures for expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program and stringent verification thereof. The principles on which this decision should be based, in the view of both sides, are set forth in Annex A. The United States and the Russian Federation believe that these extraordinary procedures are necessitated by the prior use of these weapons in Syria and the volatility of the Syrian civil war.
The Russian Federation and the United States of America agree on the need to achieve rapid elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, thus reducing the threat posed to the people of Syria. They are each prepared to devote high-level attention and resources to support the monitoring and destruction mission of the OPCW, both directly and in cooperation with the United Nations and other States concerned. They agree to set an ambitious goal of eliminating the threat in a rapid and effective manner.
Both parties agree that a clear picture of the state of Syrian chemical weapons could help advance a cooperative development of destruction options, including possible removal of chemical weapons outside of the Syrian territory. We agree on the importance of rapid destruction of the following categories:
1. Production equipment
2. Mixing and filling equipment
3. Filled and unfilled weapons and delivery systems
4. Chemical agents (unweaponized) and precursor chemicals. For these materials, they will pursue a hybrid approach, i.e., a combination of removal from Syria and destruction within Syria, depending upon site-specific conditions. They will also consider the possibility of consolidation and destruction in the coastal area of Syria.
5. Material and equipment related to the research and development of chemical weapons
The two parties agree to utilize the “universal matrix”, developed in the course of consultations by our two National Security Councils, as the basis for an actionable plan.
They agree that the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria should be considered an urgent matter to be implemented within the shortest possible time period.
The parties agree to set the following target dates:
A. Completion of initial OPCW on-site inspections by November.
B. Destruction of production and mixing/filling equipment by November.
C. Complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.
The Russian Federation and the United States will work together closely, including with the OPCW, the UN and Syrian parties to arrange for the security of the monitoring and destruction mission, noting the primary responsibility of the Syrian government in this regard.