Western Powers Seek UN Backing of Syria Chemical Disarmament Plan

Source: Global Security Newswire, 16 September 2013

The United Kingdom on Monday said it would join France and the United States in pushing the UN Security Council to "enshrine" a US-Russian plan reached late last week to deprive Syrian President Bashar Assad of his chemical-warfare stockpiles, the Washington Post reported.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters that the global community is ready to hold the Syrian regime accountable if it fails to fully meet the terms of the disarmament blueprint unveiled on Saturday. Secretary of State John Kerry made final changes to the US-drafted proposal later endorsed by Moscow, an Obama insider told the Post for a separate Monday report.

One government insider said the top diplomats had "agreed to seek a strong and robust [Security Council] resolution that sets precise and binding deadlines with a calendar," Reuters reported.

The US-Russian plan "has to be enforced," Kerry said on Monday. "If the Assad regime believes that this is not enforceable and that we are not serious, they will play games,” he added at a press conference after meeting with Hague and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Assad's key opponents could join peace talks planned as international discussion continues on the chemical-disarmament plan, the Associated Press quoted Fabius as saying on Monday. Resistance fighters, though, believe the arrangement gives Assad's regime license to intensify other kinds of attacks, the New York Times reported on Sunday. Conventional force has been chiefly responsible for killing more than 100,000 people to date in Syria's civil war.

In a report released on Monday, a UN task force concluded there is "clear and convincing evidence" that a relatively significant sarin nerve agent strike took place on Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb. The gassed area was held by opponents of Assad.

President Obama has said military action is still on the table if Damascus fails to meet its obligations under the arrangement, Reuters reported. US military forces remain poised to attack Syrian government targets in response to last month's nerve agent strike.

Any push for armed strikes would face Russian opposition, but Moscow has indicated it could support punitive UN actions short of force over potential missteps by Assad's regime, the wire service said.

The US-Russian arrangement requires Damascus within days to declare all its chemical-weapon stocks. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected before December to complete an initial on-the-ground investigation of the arsenal.