The U.S. and Russia agreed on a deal to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria despite their complicated relationship status. The deal, should it work, doesn't necessarily satisfy the Syrian opposition but it does put the most international pressure on Syria since the conflict began. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the partnership Saturday morning at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, where they've been negotiating privately since Thursday. "There can be no room for games. Or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime," Kerry said Saturday.
Here are the six important points in the U.S.-Russia jointly agreed upon six point plan:
- Syria has one week to turn over a list of its complete chemical weapons arsenal. The U.S. and Russia agree the Syrian government has roughly 1,000 tons of chemical agents and materials, the BBC reports.
- Syria must sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, as Bashar al-Assad has promised.
- Syria's chemical weapons stockpile must be placed under international control by November.
- Syria's chemical weapons stockpile and all associated materials must be destroyed by the first half of 2014.
- U.N. inspectors must be given "immediate, unfettered access" to Syria's chemical weapons sites by November. There are allegedly over 50 sites that hold chemical weapons in Syria.
- The U.N. will help with logistical support and will enforce penalties under Chapter VII, which allows sanctions or military force, should Syria fail to comply with these guidelines. (The U.S. retains the right to use military force; Russia still doesn't think it's a good idea.)
So that seems like a reasonable plan that cover a lot of bases and does so quickly, which is the most important part, and eliminates the possibility another chemical weapons attack like the one on August 21 could occur. But the Syrian opposition isn't enthused with this idea, that averts a potential U.S. military strike against Assad for the foreseeable future. "There is nothing in this agreement that concerns us," said Gen. Salim Idriss, a leader in the Free Syrian Army. He described the deal was just a Russian mechanism to buy time for the regime, and claimed Assad was already moving his chemical weapons arsenal to Iraq and Lebanon to avoid U.N. inspection.
Does this mean the relationship between the U.S. and Russia is now patched up, that we can expect more international cooperation in the future, that the whole Snowden thing is behind us? Of course not. There's still the looming potential international incident that is John McCain's Russian op-ed. And parts of this deal are founded on disagreement between these two countries. But it's something, for now, that seemingly could fix a very large problem at the center of a civil war that's not ending any time soon.