Friday, September 27, 2013

United Nations Security Council votes 15-0 to eliminate Syria\'s chemical weapons

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a draft resolution on eliminating Syria\'s chemical weapons on Friday night with a vote of 15-0.

The text of the resolution, while binding, does not lay out consequences for Syria\'s non-compliance with the resolution, beyond the threat of another resolution that would then be passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the right to authorize the use of force.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon told the Council following the vote that this was a \"historic resolution\" that was \"the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time.\"

\"For many months, I have said that the confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria would require a firm, united response,\" Ban said. \"Tonight, the international community has delivered.\"

Now the Council is turning to the matter of drafting and passing a resolution on the humanitarian situation in Syria, which could happen as early as Monday according to some reports, and in planning a second Geneva Convention, which Ban told the Council on Friday evening following the vote is currently penciled-in for November.

Uk Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters the Security Council\'s vote was a \"very positive development.\" \"It is a good resolution,\" he said.

\"It makes clear that the use of chemical weapons is a threat to international peace and security. It imposes binding obligations on the Syrian regime, and makes clear in the event of non-compliance the Council will take action.\"

Hague also announced that the British government will be donating $3 million to the OPCW Syrian Trust Fund to assist with Syria\'s humanitarian situation. \"I think it\'s very important now that the international agreement on chemical weapons is followed up by renewed agreements,\" Hague said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who did not speak to reporters following the vote, said in his statement Kerry stressed that in the event Syria does not comply with the Council\'s resolution, \"the Council WILL impose measures under Chapter seven.\"

\"The Security Council tonight has shown that diplomacy can be so powerful, that it can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war,\" he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who also chose not to address the press, emphasized that the resolution does not automatically impose sanctions or other \"coercive measures\" on Syria, and that the Security Council must have \"100 percent proof\" of a chemical weapons violation before taking further measures.

All present diplomats made statements on how this resolution was not an excuse for either side to continue using conventional weapons. \"We must work together with the same determination, the same co-operation that has brought us here tonight, in order to end the conflict that continues to tear Syria apart even this very day,\" Kerry said.

\"A red light for one form of weapons does not mean a green light for others,\" Ban said. \"This is not a license to kill with conventional weapons.

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jafa\'ari told reporters that his government was ready to fully comply with the Security Council, but also told reporters that the resolution applied to every member state in the UN, including in the sections where it recalls a previous Security Council resolution which, Jafa\'ari said, \"calls on all states from providing all form of support to non-state actors.\"

\"The Syrian government acknowledges the positive endeavor that led to this exceptional language. It is regrettable, however, that some of delegations have already started to provide self-inflicted interpretations in order to derail it from its lofty purposes,\" he added

He also emphasized that the Syrian government voluntarily acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and said \"This proves the Syrian government\'s willingness to cooperate with the OPCW.\"

Jafa\'ari added that his government was completely ready and willing to participate in a Geneva II convention, but would not say whether this would include talks to negotiate a mutually-agreed political transition.

Meanwhile in Washington, Obama juggled two major developments in the Middle East, between the Security Council resolution and an historic call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the first such call between the leaders of the US and Iran in over three decades.

\"This binding resolution will ensure that the Assad regime must keep its commitments, or face consequences,\" Obama said at a press conference at the White House.

\"We'll have to be vigilant about following through, but this could be a significant victory for the international community, and demonstrate how strong diplomacy can allow us to secure our country and pursue a better world,\" he said.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who have for months pushed for more aggressive US involvement in Syria to aid the opposition, immediately released a statement pouring cold water on the resolution.

\"This resolution is another triumph of hope over reality,\" the senators said in a prepared statement. \"It contains no meaningful or immediate enforcement mechanisms, let alone a threat of the use of force for the Assad regime's non-compliance. The whole question of enforcement has been deferred.\"

But a senior administration official told reporters on Friday that the resolution was an achievement that went beyond what a military campaign could have accomplished.

\"This would, frankly, go beyond achieving the objective that we were contemplating with military action,\" the official said.
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