Last updated: 18 September, 2013

UN powers hold new Syria chemical talks

The five UN Security Council powers held new talks Wednesday on a resolution backing a Russia-US plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, diplomats said.

Western nations, who say they are not looking for an immediate threat of force against President Bashar al-Assad, could seek a Security Council vote this weekend if agreement can be reached with Russia.

Talks between the UN envoys from the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China were the second since Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry agreed a plan on Saturday to put Syria’s banned chemical arms under international control.

The accord headed off the immediate threat of a US military strike over an August 21 chemical weapon attack near Damascus in which hundreds died.

Western powers blame Assad for the attack. Russia backs the Damascus government in accusing opposition rebels.

A Security Council resolution is becoming pressing, as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) executive is expected to meet Friday to approve the Russia-US plan.

And the plan will face its first big test on Saturday which is the one week deadline announced by Russia and the United States for Assad to provide a list of his chemical facilities.

Britain, France and the United States have prepared a draft Security Council resolution that would use Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Western diplomats say the draft does not include a demand for force or other sanctions however.

Without giving details of the draft, Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the western powers want to use Chapter VII to make the Russia-US accord and the OPCW decision binding under international law.

“The heart of this resolution and its main purpose is to make the framework agreement reached between the United States and Russia in Geneva, and the decision that will be taken by the OPCW executive council, endorsed by the Security Council in a legally binding verifiable and enforceable form,” Lyall Grant said.

Chapter VII is needed when the United Nations gives approval for military action. It is also used for economic sanctions and to make measures binding under international law.

Russia’s Lavrov said when the chemical accord was struck with Kerry that it would be backed with a UN resolution under Chapter VII. He has since opposed using Chapter VII however.