US and Russia strike a deal with Syria

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

Syria deal
US Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov laugh together at a news conference held on September 14, 2013, after they finalized an agreement for Syrian chemical weapons in Geneva, Switzerland.

Well, it’s certainly been a busy week for US Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. After numerous meetings in Geneva, Switzerland at the UN headquarters, the US and Russia have officially reached a deal in which Syria agrees to surrender its chemical weapons to international control. Under the plan, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad will give up his stockpiles within one week and allow UN inspectors to be on the ground no later than November.

As Syria’s ally in the UN, Russia has threatened to veto any attempts by the US to authorize a military strike on the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons. China also has veto power, but has remained on the fence as it watched the US and Russia negotiate over how to deal with Syria. In light of the recent spirit of cooperation and newly-formed deal, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “We believe this framework agreement has cooled the tense situation in Syria and has opened a new opportunity to use a peaceful means to resolve the chemical weapons issue.”

Even though Syria demanded that a deal include promises by the US to stop supporting the rebels in the civil war and to remove the threat of military action, the US-Russia plan does not include those agreements. Kerry says that the “threat of force remains” in order to make sure Syria actually follows the plan. “I want people to understand the key elements of what we agreed to in Geneva. It is a framework, not a final agreement,” said the Secretary of State. “It is a framework that must be put into effect by the United Nations now.”

Still, Syria is calling the deal a victory. Syrian National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar thanked Russia for helping avert US-led military action, and said, “On the one hand, they will help Syrians come out of the crisis, and on the other hand, they prevented the war against Syria by having removed a pretext for those who wanted to unleash it.” He sees the agreement as “a victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends.”

French President Francois Hollande elaborated that the plan will now go to the UN Security Council, where members will put together an organized process by which they can consider the use of force if Syria doesn’t follow directions. Kerry, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague will work together on the final product, and then Fabius will “go to Russia to meet with his Russian counterpart to end this process, and we could vote on this resolution before the end of the week.” However, Hollande cautions, “This does not mean that we would be done with the case. The violence is still ongoing, the war in Syria is still ongoing, so the next step will be to find a political solution.”

Images courtesy of US Department of State on Flickr.