UN Security Council reaches deal on Syria

Assad regime must give up chemicals; resolution has no automatic penalties

US Ambassador Samantha Power said the resolution established a new norm.
US Ambassador Samantha Power said the resolution established a new norm.

UNITED NATIONS — The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have agreed on a resolution that will require Syria to give up its chemical weapons, but there will be no automatic penalties if the Syrians fail to comply, officials said.

The agreement, hammered out after days of negotiations, represents a compromise between the United States and its allies and Russia, which had refused to go along with any measure that imposed automatic penalties on Syria if it fails to obey.

But the deal, when finally approved by the 15 members of the Security Council, would amount to the most significant international diplomatic initiative of the Syrian civil war and a remarkable turn for President Obama, who had been pushing for a military strike on Syria before accepting a Russian proposal to have Syria relinquish its chemical arsenal.


Western diplomats said the resolution would be legally binding and would stipulate that if Syria failed to abide by the terms, the Security Council would take measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the strongest form of a council resolution. Such measures could include economic sanctions or even military action. But before any action could be taken, the issue would have to go back for debate by the Security Council, on which Russia, like the other permanent members, holds a veto.

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Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said in a message on Twitter that the resolution established a new norm against the use of chemical weapons.

Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in a post that the resolution agreed to by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France would be binding and enforceable.

The diplomatic breakthrough on Syria came as Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said progress had been made toward a resolution of the nuclear dispute between his country and the West.

The entire 15-member Security Council began to discuss the Syrian resolution that was agreed to by the permanent members of the Security Council on Thursday evening.


A vote on the resolution could come as early as Friday, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told reporters here Thursday night, so long as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, votes on its own Syria measure early Friday. A formal vote on the measure will not take place until the organization that monitors compliance with the international treaty banning chemical weapons drafts procedures for inspecting and eliminating Syria’s vast arsenal of poison gas.

The Syrian resolution was a major milestone for the United Nations after two years of largely unproductive discussions in the Security Council over the civil war in Syria.

Just three weeks ago, the Obama administration grew openly frustrated at the inability to win Russian support for military action against the government of President Bashar Assad after a chemical weapons attack Aug. 21 that killed more than 1,400 people.

Power complained then that there is no viable path forward in the Security Council.

Now, the council has agreed to a key provision in the resolution stating that “the use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a threat to international peace and security.” Syria, the resolution states, “shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to other states or non-state actors.”


The measure notes that “in the event of noncompliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Security Council can decided to “impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.”

But while Western diplomats were hailing the new resolution as a breakthrough, much will depend on how it is ultimately implemented.

According to the resolution, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the watchdog organization that polices the international treaty banning chemical weapons, or the secretary general of the United Nations would report any violations to the Security Council.

The Security Council would then discuss the measures to impose for Syria’s noncompliance.