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What the US-Russia plan for ridding Syria of chemical weapons entails

The agreement aims to completely remove the weapons from Syria by the middle of 2014

United Nations chemical weapons inspectors in Syria in August.
Mohamed Abdullah/AFP/Getty Images

The United States and Russia announced Saturday that they have reached a deal on how to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, along with the materials that go into making the deadly gases. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the agreement as a means of finding a political solution to Syria's raging civil war, which the United Nations estimates has killed 100,000 people since it began in 2011.

"The United States and the Russian Federation believe that these extraordinary procedures are necessitated by the prior use of these weapons in Syria and the volatility of the Syrian civil war," the U.S. State Department said in press release, referring to a deadly Aug. 21 gas attack in Damascus that the U.S. says was carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The U.S. has said that more than 1,400 people, including women and children were killed in the attack.

Assad has rejected the claim, blaming rebels for the gassing.

The framework for the removal of Syria's chemical weapons does not place blame on either Assad or the Syrian opposition. The deal calls for a U.N. Security Council resolution to back up the measures, with a provision allowing for penalties, such as sanctions, if Syria fails to comply. The U.S and Russia also agreed to strict verification measures of the weapons' destruction. 

The State Department said that U.S. and Russian diplomats will draft a plan to send the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons "in the next few days." Based at The Hague, in The Netherlands, the OPCW is an international body that helps countries that have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention destroy their chemical weapons stockpiles.

OPCW weapons inspectors participated in the United Nations investigation into the chemical weapons attack in August.

The right of inspectors to enter Syria must be "immediate and unfettered," the State Department said, adding that the stockpiles should be out of Syria by the middle of 2014. The State Department also said OPCW inspectors must be allowed to complete their review no later than November of this year.

Attempting to destroy such weapons in the midst of a turbulent and violent civil war is an essentially unprecedented move, experts have said.

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Read the outline of the framework below:

Principles for decision document by OPCW executive council

1. The decision should be based on para 8. Art. IV and para. 10 of Art V of the CWC.

2. The decision should address the extraordinary character of the situation with the Syrian chemical weapons.

3. The decision should take into account the deposit by Syria of the instrument of accession to the CWC.

4. The decision should provide for the easy accessibility for States Parties of the information submitted by Syria.

5. The decision should specify which initial information Syria shall submit to the OPCW Technical Secretariat in accordance with a tightly fixed schedule and also specifies an early date for submission of the formal CWC declaration.

6. The decision should oblige Syria to cooperate fully on all aspects of its implementation.

7. The decision should address a schedule for the rapid destruction of Syrian chemical weapons capabilities. This schedule should take into account the following target dates:

A. Completion of initial OPCW on-site inspections of declared sites by November.

B. Destruction of production and mixing/filling equipment by November.

C. Complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.

The shortest possible final deadline, as well as intermediate deadlines, for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons capabilities should be included into the schedule.

8. The decision should provide stringent special verification measures, beginning within a few days, including a mechanism to ensure the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites.

9. The decision should address the issue of duties of the OPCW Technical Secretariat in this situation and its need for supplementary resources to implement the decision, particularly technical and personnel resources, and call upon states with relevant capacities to contribute to this end.

10. The decision should refer to the provisions of the CWC obliging the Executive Council, in cases of non-compliance with the Convention, to bring the issues directly to the attention of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council.

Joint framework on destruction of Syrian CW

The Russian Federation and the United States of America agree on the need to achieve rapid elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, thus reducing the threat posed to the people of Syria. They are each prepared to devote high-level attention and resources to support the monitoring and destruction mission of the OPCW, both directly and in cooperation with the United Nations and other States concerned. They agree to set an ambitious goal of eliminating the threat in a rapid and effective manner.

Both parties agree that a clear picture of the state of Syrian chemical weapons could help advance a cooperative development of destruction options, including possible removal of chemical weapons outside of the Syrian territory. We agree on the importance of rapid destruction of the following categories:

1. Production equipment

2. Mixing and filling equipment

3. Filled and unfilled weapons and delivery systems

4. Chemical agents (unweaponized) and precursor chemicals. For these materials, they will pursue a hybrid approach, i.e., a combination of removal from Syria and destruction within Syria, depending upon site-specific conditions. They will also consider the possibility of consolidation and destruction in the coastal area of Syria.

5. Material and equipment related to the research and development of chemical weapons

The two parties agree to utilize the “universal matrix”, developed in the course of consultations by our two National Security Councils, as the basis for an actionable plan.

They agree that the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria should be considered an urgent matter to be implemented within the shortest possible time period.

The parties agree to set the following target dates:

A. Completion of initial OPCW on-site inspections by November.

B. Destruction of production and mixing/filling equipment by November.

C. Complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.

The Russian Federation and the United States will work together closely, including with the OPCW, the UN and Syrian parties to arrange for the security of the monitoring and destruction mission, noting the primary responsibility of the Syrian government in this regard.

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