Saturday, September 14, 2013

U.S. and Russia Reportedly Reach Agreement on Syria

Welcoming the news that Russia and the United States have reached an agreement on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed the hope that the deal will pave the way for a political solution to end the "appalling suffering" of the Syrian people.  In a statement released by Mr. Ban's spokesperson in New York, the UN chief welcomed the agreement reached by Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and United States Secretary of State John Kerry on the safeguarding and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. 

Announcement of the deal comes after three days of intense talks in Geneva, Switzerland, between Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry. It culminates a week of diplomatic activity noted in the media, kicked off by the earlier announcement of Russia's proposal for Damascus to surrender its chemical weapons and place them under international control.  Then on Thursday, a UN spokesperson confirmed that the Secretary-General had received a letter from the Syrian Government informing him that President Bassar Al-Assad would sign and abide by the 1992 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

In the meantime, evidence collected by a UN team probing possible chemical weapons use in Syria on 21 August is being examined by laboratories in Europe. The team, which the Secretary-General has said is "working around the clock," is expected to submit its report to him in due course.

In the statement issued today, Mr. Ban looks forward to learning more of the framework agreed by Russia and the United States and pledges the support of the United Nations in its implementation.  "The Secretary-General expresses his fervent hope that the agreement will, first, prevent any future use of chemical weapons in Syria and, second, help pave the path for a political solution to stop the appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people," says the statement.

As for talks on a political path out of the more than two year crisis, United Nations-Arab League Joint Representative Lakhdar Brahimi has been pressing ahead with his efforts towards the holding of a long-proposed international peace conference on Syria, commonly referred to as "Geneva II", after the Swiss city in which it would be held. 

(adapted from a UN press release)

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