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– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
ACA Statement on the U.S.-Russian Joint Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons
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For Immediate Release: September 14, 2013
Media Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

Today, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached  agreement on a detailed plan for the expeditious accounting, inspection, control, and elimination of Syria’s sizable arsenal of chemical weapons, with provision for enforcement by the UN Security Council.

Among other things, the plan calls on Syria to provide a full declaration of its stockpile “within a week” and “to achieve accountability for their chemical weapons, the Syrians must provide the OPCW, the UN, and other supporting personnel with the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria.”

The plan calls for the OPCW inspectors  to complete their initial inspections by November. The document states that U.S. and Russian officials have also reached a consensus on the size of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and calls for the destruction of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons and chemical agents by the first half of 2014.

One of the next steps will be for the United States and Russia to secure approval of the plan by the OPCW executive council and then a UN Security Council resolution that mandates the implementation of the plan by Syria and other entities. The U.S.-Russian agreement outlined today states that “in the event of non-compliance, including unauthorized transfer, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter."

“If fully implemented,” Mr. Kerry said in remarks this morning in Geneva, “this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world.”

We agree. The plan is very thorough and tough. It outlines a thorough series of key steps on an accelerated schedule and provides for enforcement through the UN Security Council–with the authority and influence of both the United States, as well as Assad’s patron, Russia.

While there are many further, challenging steps ahead, the agreement is an unprecedented breakthrough that would deny the Assad regime access to this dangerous arsenal and significantly reduce the risk that the government can use chemical weapons (CW) again, either inside Syria or against neighboring states in the region.

The first test of Syrian cooperation will be the delivery of a declaration of its CW stockpile “within a week.” It is possible that Assad may try to hide some of his CW stockpile, but it will be difficult for him to do so over the course of the inspections process, which will be aided by U.S. and Russian intelligence on the nature and location and size of the Syrian stockpile– and there will be consequences if Assad does not cooperate and does not turn over his entire CW arsenal.

Assad’s cost-benefit calculation about chemical weapons has already changed: they are now an enormous liability that cannot be used and only through their verifiable elimination can he avoid punitive military strikes that would have the backing of not just the United States, but the UN Security Council.

At this stage, Assad has little choice but to cooperate. Russia is on board this plan, something that was hard to imagine even a week ago. It is an important diplomatic accomplishment for the U.S. and Russia, but especially for the Obama administration and Secretary of State John Kerry and his team in Geneva.

-Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association.

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding and effective policies to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons: nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, as well as certain types of conventional weapons that pose a threat to noncombatants. ACA publishes the monthly journal Arms Control Today.