NEW YORK (Reuters) - France said on Monday it expected the U.N. Security Council to agree on a resolution to enforce a chemical weapons deal with Syria and appeared to give up on its previous calls to have a resolution threatening force against President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia accused the West on Sunday of trying to exploit the deal between Moscow and Washington with Syria to push through a council resolution issued under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which could authorize sanctions or military intervention if Damascus reneges on its commitments.
Some U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, had expressed concern about whether agreement on a resolution could be reached. However, speaking to reporters in New York French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius appeared to back down.
“For it to be acceptable to France ... the resolution should foresee that measures under Chapter 7 are taken if Syria does not comply with its commitments in line with the Geneva agreement,” Fabius said. He added the resolution should also call for those behind the chemical attack to face justice.
“We should take exactly what was foreseen in Geneva,” Fabius said. “On that basis we should come to an agreement.”
Fabius appeared to confirm France’s willingness to accept Russia’s demand that the current draft resolution not be enforceable under Chapter 7. According to the Geneva agreement, the Security Council would have to adopt a second resolution in order to punish Syria for any non-compliance with a U.S.-Russian plan to eradicate Syria’s chemical arsenal.
Russia and the United States brokered the deal in Geneva in mid-September to avoid possible U.S. military strikes. Under the deal, Assad would account for his chemical weapons and see them destroyed by the middle of next year.
The deal stipulated that “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 7 of the U.N. Charter.”
Envoys from the five big U.N. powers - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - have been meeting in New York to negotiate a draft resolution to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control.
“Regarding the Russians, it would be difficult to understand that given they themselves proposed the ban on chemical weapons that there would not be an agreement to apply what they proposed,” Fabius said.
French diplomats said the mention of an eventual recourse to further measures under Chapter 7 would be a minimum requirement.
They said there was a chance the resolution could be voted during the U.N. General Assembly, but they aimed to negotiate as tough a resolution as possible which could delay a vote.
“If there were a violation then it would be up to the Security Council to take its decisions, but under chapter 7,” Fabius said.
Russia and China have blocked three U.N. resolutions meant to pressure Assad during Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 110,000 people since 2011.
Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Cynthia Osterman