Friday night, the UN Security Council voted unanimously Friday night to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, a landmark decision aimed at taking poison gas off the battlefield in the escalating 2 1/2-year conflict.
The vote after two weeks of intense negotiations marked a major breakthrough in the paralysis that has gripped the council since the Syrian uprising began. Russia and China previously vetoed three Western-backed resolutions pressuring President Bashar Assad’s regime to end the violence.
“Today’s historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the council immediately after the vote.
This is the first time the council endorsed the roadmap for a political transition in Syria adopted by key nations in June 2012 and called for an international conference to be convened “as soon as possible” to implement it.
This resolution calls for consequences if Syria fails to comply, but those will depend on the council passing another resolution in the event of non-compliance. That will give Assad ally Russia the means to stop any punishment from being imposed. Also the vote came just hours after the world’s chemical weapons watchdog adopted a U.S.-Russian plan that lays out benchmarks and timelines for cataloguing, quarantining and ultimately destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, their precursors and delivery systems.
The agreement allows the start of a mission to rid Syria’s regime of its estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal by mid-2014, significantly accelerating a destruction timetable that often takes years to complete.
“We expect to have an advance team on the ground (in Syria) next week,” OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan told reporters at the organization’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands immediately after its 41-member executive council approved the plan.
As a sign of the broad support for the resolution, all 15 members signed on as co-sponsors Friday. The final resolution states that the Security Council will impose measures under Chapter 7 if Syria fails to comply, but this would require adoption of a second resolution.