The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution Friday backing a plan to turn Syria's chemical weapons stockpile over to international monitors. It was the first time the divided council has been able to unite and pass a resolution related to the Syrian conflict, which has torn the country apart for two and a half years.
U.S. officials are hailing the vote as a victory, in the wake of three joint vetoes by Russia and China in the past two years. But the resolution — which President Barack Obama and other Western diplomats have called "binding" and "enforceable" — lacks the teeth that the Obama administration has repeatedly called for.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in hastily scheduled, closed-door talks Thursday afternoon to resolve several last-minute disputes over the text. Shortly afterward, Lavrov said that Moscow and Washington had reached an "understanding" on the draft.
Speaking in the Security Council chambers shortly after the vote, Kerry said, "Our original objective was to degrade and deter Syria's chemical weapons capability, and the option of military force that President Obama has kept on the table could have achieved that. But tonight's resolution, in fact, achieves even more."
During his speech at Friday's vote, Lavrov pledged Moscow's full support for the inspection and removal of Damascus' chemical weapons arsenal.
"Russia stands ready to participate in the upcoming action in Syria in all aspects," he said.
The United States and its allies France and the United Kingdom – the three permanent Western members of the Security Council – have repeatedly called for a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows for military and nonmilitary actions to promote peace and security.
The draft resolution makes clear there is no trigger for any enforcement measures if Syria fails to dismantle its chemical weapons. Instead, it states that in the event of noncompliance or use of chemical weapons, the Security Council will "impose measures under Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter," which would require a second resolution. But any resolution authorizing military intervention in Syria would be extremely unlikely to pass through the U.N. Security Council.
Lavrov, however, hinted in his statement that Russia could be open to a future resolution authorizing force if Syria fails to adhere to the agreement.
"Violations of its (Syria's) requirements as well as the use of chemical weapons by anyone will have to be carefully investigated by the Security Council of the United Nations, which will stand ready to take action under Chapter 7 of the charter, quite clearly," he said, adding that any such actions will have to be proven "100 percent."