| UNITED NATIONS/AMSTERDAM, Sept 19
UNITED NATIONS/AMSTERDAM, Sept 19 Last week
Russia and the United States put aside bitter differences over
Syria to strike a deal to remove President Bashar al-Assad's
chemical arsenal and avert U.S. military action against him.
The deal came after an Aug. 21 sarin gas attack near
Damascus that Washington says killed over 1,400 people, many of
them children. Following are questions and answers about the
plan to dismantle Syria's poison gas program.
WHAT IS THE SIZE OF SYRIA'S CHEMICAL ARSENAL?
Syria has roughly 1,000 tonnes of chemical toxins -
including mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin and VX - spread
over as many as 50 sites around the country.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE HAGUE'S CHEMICAL ARMS AGENCY?
The 41-member Executive Council of the Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague is expected to vote
on a joint Russian-American proposal to rapidly verify and
destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile on Sunday.
According to the U.S.-Russian framework agreement, the
chemical arms agency's Executive Council will detail "special
procedures for expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical
weapons program and stringent verification thereof."
The chemical arms agency's decision must be approved by a
simple majority of council members, though agreement is almost
always reached through a consensus, which is expected in Syria's
case. The council meets behind closed doors, but may be open to
observer countries that are not yet members. Syria is not yet a
Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention last week
in line with the U.S.-Russia deal. Its accession to the treaty
comes into force next month.
WHAT ARE KEY DEADLINES UNDER THE U.S.-RUSSIAN DEAL?
- On Saturday, the one-week limit for Syria to present a
complete list of its chemical weapons program lapses.
- By Nov. 30, 2013, inspectors from The Hague's chemical
arms agency are due to have completed on-site inspections of
locations declared by Syria.
- Nov. 30, 2013 is also the deadline for destruction of
chemical weapons production and mixing/filling equipment.
- By June 30, 2014, the destruction of the entire Syrian
chemical weapons arsenal is due to be completed.
HOW WILL THE REMOVAL OF SYRIA'S ARSENAL BE FUNDED?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva that
Washington and Moscow would help fund the dismantling of Syria's
chemical arsenal. He added that "we will seek, in the process of
the U.N. and in the effort to have a global commitment to this,
help from many other of our international partners."
European Union sources said the bloc was discussing
internally how it could help provide some financing for the
removal and destruction of the weapons, a process that Assad
said on Wednesday would cost $1 billion.
WHO WILL REMOVE AND DESTROY THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS?
That is still being worked out. However, OPCW and U.N.
experts would be involved. U.S. and Russian experts may also
participate. The actual destruction and/or removal of the
weapons will be complicated by the fact that the country is
still in the throes of a 2-1/2-year civil war.
The Hague-based chemical arms agency has never moved weapons
across borders before, because of the risk, and never worked in
a war zone.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE SECURITY COUNCIL?
As soon as the OPCW decision is made, the full U.N. Security
Council will begin negotiations on a resolution intended to
support the OPCW Executive Council's decision. The five
permanent U.N. Security Council members have been negotiating
for several days on a draft resolution.
If the OPCW decision comes on Sunday, U.N. diplomats say a
U.N. Security Council resolution could be put to a vote in New
York early next week, possibly during the annual gathering of
world leaders for the General Assembly session, which begins on
WHAT WILL THE RESOLUTION DO?
British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant described the point
of the resolution as follows: "The heart of this resolution, and
its main purpose, is to make the framework agreement reached
between the United States and Russia in Geneva, and the decision
that will be taken by the OPCW Executive Council, endorsed by
the Security Council in a legally binding, verifiable and
enforceable form," he said.
Russia, however, has said that the resolution has a more
modest purpose - to back the OPCW decision.
WILL THE RESOLUTION BE ENFORCEABLE?
The United States, Britain and France want the measures in
the resolution to be legally binding and enforceable under
Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter. Chapter 7 outlines mechanisms for
enforcement, which include diplomatic and economic sanctions as
well as military intervention.
Russia has been resisting the idea of using a Chapter 7
resolution to make the Syrian chemical weapons agreement legally
binding and enforceable. It says that could open the door to an
Iraq- or Libya-style foreign military operation.
Western diplomats say they would prefer not to rule out the
use of force in the resolution, but might not have any choice if
the Russians insist. It is still possible to have a legally
binding Chapter 7 resolution while ruling out military
Such a resolution, Western diplomats say, could refer to
Chapter 7 Article 41 of the U.N. charter, which states: "The
Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use
of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its
decisions." Russia, however, says any reference to Chapter 7
opens the door to military intervention.
Any punitive measures would require a new resolution.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SYRIA FAILS TO COMPLY?
The U.S.-Russian framework agreement is quite specific on
the issue of non-compliance: "In the event of non-compliance,
including unauthorized transfer, or any use of chemical weapons
by anyone in Syria, the U.N. Security Council should impose
measures under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, told
reporters after the framework agreement that this "does not mean
that every violation that will be reported to the Security
Council will be taken by word." He also said that Russia would
support a new council resolution imposing punitive measures on
whoever is guilty of non-compliance only when there is "100
percent" certainty about the circumstances of the violation.
Any punitive measures would require a new resolution.
Moscow, Assad's chief ally, has made clear it would oppose any
threat of force in the event of Syrian non-compliance.
IS THE PASSAGE OF A RESOLUTION CERTAIN?
No. Russia has already vetoed three U.N. Security Council
resolutions that condemned Assad's government and threatened it
with sanctions. Western diplomats say that it will not be easy
to avoid a fourth Russian veto, even with the U.S.-Russian deal
that was agreed last weekend.
COULD THE U.S. ATTACK SYRIA WITHOUT U.N. APPROVAL?
Yes, but some analysts and diplomats say air strikes against
Syria without U.N. Security Council approval would be illegal.
The United States has done it before, as in the case of the 1999
Kosovo war, when it circumvented the Security Council and joined
NATO allies in a U.S.-led bombing campaign to drive Serbian
troops out of Kosovo.
President Obama has said repeatedly that he is prepared to
act against Syria without a U.N. mandate if diplomacy fails. He
put a congressional vote to authorize the use of force in Syria
on hold while the current diplomatic process plays itself out.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Stacey Joyce)