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After three days of intense negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov reached agreement Saturday on a framework to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014.
Lavrov said on Saturday that the deal does not outline plans for potential use of force if Damascus fails to comply.
In a statement released by the White House, Obama said the deal represents “an important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria’s chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed.”
Obama stressed that the US will, however, need to ensure the process is “verifiable” and “there are consequences.”
The American President also warned, “If diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”
According to the framework, Syria must submit a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical weapons stockpiles within one week, and weapons inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November.
The Syrian government and rebels have both accused each other of being behind the recent chemical attack in a Damascus suburb.
The Free Syrian Army has criticized the deal reached on Saturday.
“We cannot accept any part of this initiative,” General Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army said.
“The FSA will work towards toppling Assad and does not care about US-Russia deals. I and my brothers in arms will continue to fight until the regime falls,” he added.
After arguing for weeks that the US should launch military strikes against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, Obama had to consider the Russian proposal of placing Syrian chemical weapons under international control.
Opposition from scores of lawmakers and domestic public had complicated the issue for the US President who admitted in a televised address that the US can not be “the world’s policeman”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had in an op-ed for the New York Times criticized Washington’s threats of military strikes against Damascus.
“It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States,” he wrote.
Obama, on Tuesday, finally gave his assent to a Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control after deciding to send Secretary of State Kerry for negotiations with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
On Saturday, the UN said it had received all documents necessary for Syria to join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).