The agreement reached in Geneva on September 12-14 between US State Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov presents the framework for concerted activities to liquidate the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal. Multipronged efforts are to be applied in the coming days to bring the agreement into life.
The accord was reached in the shortest possible time. On September 5 Putin and Obama came to agreement on international control over the Syrian chemical arsenal. On September 14 the Framework for Elimination of Syria Chemical Weapons saw light. The document contains the provisions agreed on by Russia and the US (Mr. Lavrov stressed that the framework agreed by Russia and the United States was "only a proposal" but emphasized that "its significance is hard to overestimate.")
As Lavrov emphasized, it was the reaction of Damascus that made possible such effective work that allowed the documents to be so quickly submitted to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). According to him, Americans point out that Syria cooperated only under the threat of use of force. The Russian Foreign Minister said it was not important what made Damascus do so. What really matters is that Syria declared its readiness to join the Chemical Weapons Convention no strings attached.
It is also worth to note that according to Lavrov: "There (is) nothing said about the use of force and not about any automatic sanctions."
The Minister disclosed some details about what had preceded the bilateral accord on Syria. Lavrov recalled that Russian experts had provided evidence proving that rebels had used chemical weapons. “Then there was an episode on March 19, which should have been investigated by U.N experts but they were putting it off by coming up with unrealistic demands at that time, avoiding concrete inquiries and trying to do more than they could,” he said. Mr. Lavrov said Russia conducted an investigation of its own and submitted the results to the United Nations. The Minister is convinced that by the time the presidents of Russia and the United States met at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg in early September “much had already been done by bad guys who had used toxic agents one way or another”. Sergei Lavrov said the alleged chemical attack in one of the suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus on August 21 had been plotted. “There is a wide variety of testimony by independent experts in this respect, including by a nun from the nearest convent and other witnesses. Western correspondents were there. As you know, European and U.S. experts, including 12 former Pentagon and CIA officials, sent an open letter to [U.S. President Barack] Obama, explaining how all this had been fabricated (bold quotes by author),” he added.
It worth to have a look at the comments on the results of the September 14 meeting. The Russia-US joint statement was formally supported by Damascus, NATO, the Secretary General of the United Nations and the European Union; there was a positive official response from the League of Arab States, Great Britain, Germany, China and Japan.
General Salim Idriss, the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army, which is the main Syrian armed opposition group, said “There is nothing in this agreement that concerns us" and promised to continue fighting against the regime. The Army is an illegal armed formation created by the deserters from Syrian armed forces that is waging combat actions against the Assad’s government. It gets support from outside. According to some sources, its composition includes mercenaries from Libya, Tunisia, Iraq and other countries, as well as the militants from Al-Nusra Front.
The agreement came under harsh criticism from Republican senators – Senators John McCain(R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham(R-S.C.) who have recently called for going beyond limited actions to deliver a full-blown smashing strike against Syria. They view the document agreed on by Moscow and Washington as «morally and strategically indefensible», an «act of provocative weakness» on the part of the White House. Still the senators, who are prone for war, may find some solace in the fact that, as an official Pentagon spokesman said, the bilateral agreement with Russia achieved, the U.S. had made no immediate changes in forces in the region.
Scrutinizing the agreement reached by the United States and Russia on Syrian chemical weapons, it is worth to note what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on September 14 at the final press-conference in Geneva. According to him, the general aim was to make the Middle East a place “free of WMD.” It’s clear for all that it is wrong to exclude the issue of Israel’s nuclear arsenal from the Middle East agenda, because the problem is the source of constant tension in the region. Nothing could provide more solid guarantee that the Iranian nuclear program would remain peaceful than the conversion of the Middle East into the zone free of weapons of mass destruction. As well as nothing would cement more the emerging mutual understanding between America and Russia – the understanding based on practical coordination of efforts in the regions of crucial importance for maintaining peace on the planet.