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Joint work with the Syrian authorities has begun on securing the sites where the team will operate.In addition, planning continues for one of the team's immediate tasks, disabling Syria's chemical weapons production facilities, which should begin soon."
The 41-member executive council of the OPCW passed the agreement in meetings that ran past midnight. "It's done and dusted," spokesman Michael Luhan to Reuters. "It passed by consensus."
An OPCW official told Reuters an advance team would head for Syria on Monday.
The OPCW Executive Council today adopted a historic decision on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.
In a special session, the 41-member body agreed on an accelerated programme for achieving the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014. The decision requires inspections in Syria to commence from 1 October 2013.
The decision also calls for ambitious milestones for destruction which will be set by the Council by 15 November.
The Executive Council decision was informed by the Framework Agreement reached by the Russian Federation and the United States of America in Geneva on 14 September. It also facilitates the request by Syria that the Convention be applied ahead of its formal entry into force for Syria on 14 October.
The OPCW Director-General warmly welcomed the decision by the Council. He assured States Parties of the Technical Secretariat’s readiness to commence its work in Syria immediately.
“This decision sends an unmistakable message that the international community is coming together to work for peace in Syria, beginning with the elimination of chemical weapons in that country.”
“I assure the Council that I and my colleagues are ready to take up this historic responsibility. A few days ago, I stated that we approach this mission with a sense of destiny. What this means is that we will not allow the significant challenges to obscure the vision of peace and security that is embedded in this noble undertaking.”
“We have known all along that an OPCW mission of this extraordinary character will require the support of the United Nations. I look forward to working closely with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon.”
Just two weeks ago, no one thought this was in the vicinity of possible. After close consultation with the P3, the Russians have agreed to support a strong, binding and enforceable resolution that unites the pressure and focus of the international community on the Syrian regime to ensure the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons.This is historic and unprecedented because it puts oversight of the Assad regime's compliance under international control and it's the first UNSCR to declare that the use of chemical weapons is a threat to peace and security. Equally as important, it makes absolutely clear that failure of the Assad regime to comply will have consequences. Later this evening there will be a full consultation with the UNSC to discuss text.
With respect to Syria, we believe that as a starting point the international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons.
When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons, I did not do so lightly. I did so because I believe it is in the national security interests of the United States and in the interest of the world to meaningfully enforce a prohibition whose origins are older than the United Nations itself.
The ban against the use of chemical weapons, even in war, has been agreed to by 98 percent of humanity. It is strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocated in the trenches, Jews slaughtered in gas chambers, Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands.
The evidence is overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st. U.N. inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large quantities of sarin gas at civilians. These rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood and landed in opposition neighborhoods.
It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.
Now, I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council. But without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all.
However, as I’ve discussed with President Putin for over a year, most recently in St. Petersburg, my preference has always been a diplomatic resolution to this issue. And in the past several weeks, the United States, Russia and our allies have reached an agreement to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and then to destroy them.
The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles. Now, there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments. And there must be consequences if they fail to do so. If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.
On the other hand, if we succeed, it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century and that this body means what it says. Our agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort to reach a political settlement within Syria.
I do not believe that military action by those within Syria or by external powers can achieve a lasting peace. Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria. That is for the Syrian people to decide.
Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country. The notion that Syria can somehow return to a pre- war status quo is a fantasy. It’s time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad’s rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear: An increasingly violent space for extremists to operate.
In turn, those of us who continue to support the moderate opposition must persuade them the Syrian people can’t afford a collapse of state institutions, and that a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing the legitimate fears and concerns of Alawites and other minorities.
We are committed to working this political trek. And, as we pursue a settlement, let’s remember this is not a zero sum endeavor. We’re no longer in a cold war. There’s no great game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons and insuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists.
Read the full transcript of President Obama's remarks before the UN General Assembly
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on major powers to stop sending weapons to all sides in Syria, as he opened the annual UN General Assembly summit.
"I appeal to all states to stop fuelling the bloodshed and to end the arms flows to all parties," Ban told world leaders at the UNGA opening in New York on Tuesday.
The UN chief also called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition - and "all those in this hall with influence over them" - to work immediately to arrange a second Geneva conference aimed at reaching a political solution to the crisis that has wracked Syria for more than two years.
"Military victory is an illusion. The only answer is a political settlement," he said.
Ban said the response to last month's "heinous use of chemical weapons" outside Damascus "has created diplomatic momentum - the first signs of unity in far too long".