U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks in Geneva on Sept. 12, 2013.
(Photo: Larry Downing, AP)
(USA Today) -- The U.S. and Russia announced an agreement Saturday aimed at setting a timetable for destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and averting a proposed U.S. military strike against the war-torn Middle Eastern nation.
Under the agreement, hammered out on the third day of tense talks in Geneva, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations will be responsible for dismantling Syria's chemical weapons capabilities.
Syrian President Bashar Assad would be required to provide an accounting of those weapons within a week.
"The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments," Secretary of State John Kerry said in announcing the deal in Geneva. "And as I said at the outset of these negotiatons, there can be no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime."
President Obama called the deal a "concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria's chemical weapons under international control."
"This framework provides the opportunity for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in a transparent, expeditious and verifiable manner, which could end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but to the region and the world," Obama said in a statement.
An official of the OPCW, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the agreement, said details of the plan have not been worked out but the agency welcomes the agreement and would work to implement it.
American inspectors would probably not be part of the inspection team, though that could not be ruled out as plans had not yet been developed.
The official did point out that the inspectors who examined an Aug. 21 chemical attack, which touched off the latest crisis, did not include the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States - because of "Syrian sensibilities."
Securing the inspectors will be a large challenge. The country is in the midst of a civil war and it is unclear whether opposition forces would agree to cooperate with the agreement.
The document suggests security would be provided using U.N. forces. Pentagon spokesman George Little said Saturday that the U.S. had made no immediate changes in forces in the region.
"The credible threat of military force has been key to driving diplomatic progress, and it's important that the Assad regime lives up to its obligations under the framework agreement, LIttle said.
Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said they will seek a U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize sanctions if Assad's government fails to comply.
Kerry said the two had agreed on grounds under which they might request a Security Council "Chapter 7" resolution, which could include military and non-military sanctions. Russia, however, has made it clear it would veto military action.
"If we can join together and make this framework a success, and elminate Syria's chemical weapons, we would not only save lives but we would reduce the threat to the region and reinforce an international standard," Kerry said.
Kerry said the inspectors must be on the ground by November and destruction or removal of the chemical weapons must be completed by mid-2014.
"We have committed to a standard that says verify and verify," Kerry said.
Lavrov called the agreements a "decision based on consensus and compromise and professionalism."
"Any violations of procedures ... would be looked at by the Security Council and if they are approved, the Security Council would take the required measures, concrete measures," Lavrov said. "Nothing is said about the use of force or about any automatic sanctions. All violations should be approved by the Security Council."
Contributing: The Associated Press