UN draft resolution on Syria: legally binding but lacks enforcement mechanism


John Kerry (L) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The hurdles on Syria remain high.


Mladen Antonov

The United Nations' draft resolution on Syria's use of chemical weapons has been released after intense negotiations between the United States and Russia.

The resolution comes after weeks of discussions between the two major powers over the fate of Syria's chemical weapons and what steps should be taken after their confirmed use on the battlefield.

Read the UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria here.

The resolution materialized after an 11th-hour decision by the United States to hold back military strikes against Syria in order to pursue a Russia-proposed deal to secure and destroy Syria's chemical arsenal.

The UN Security Council agreement is expected to be passed in a matter of days.

The United States was seeking a deal that would eliminate Syria's chemical stockpiles, while permitting the use of force against the country if it violated the terms of the resolution.

Reuters reported that the Western powers moved away from some of their demands in order to secure Russian support for the deal, including the omission of clause that would see immediate punitive action if Syria violated the terms.

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The United States did win support for a paragraph that would see Syria's chemical weapons eliminated. The draft resolution, which still needs to be passed by the Security Council reads:

Underscores that no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer chemical weapons

Critics say that such a measure would be difficult to carry out in practice, particularly amid a raging civil war in the country.

The most notable paragraph in the deal is paragraph 21, which outlines what may happen if Syria does not comply with the terms.

Some say that Russia ultimately succeeded in preventing future military strikes or sanctions on Syria if it violated the agreement or even if it used chemical weapons as it allegedly did on Aug. 21.

The best clause the US could get was this:

Decides, in the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic, to impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter

Despite the possibility of punitive actions under Chapter VII if Syria violated the deal, another UN Security Council vote would be required.

The United States could certainly proceed with a strike but that would violate both UN rules and the resolution it had just agreed to.

Foreign Policy columnist Colum Lynch writes: "Under the terms of the resolution, a committee of diplomats and functionaries from the United Nations and the Organization on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will determine whether Syria has violated the terms of the agreement."

"The matter would then be taken up by the U.N. Security Council. In principle, Russia has agreed that in the event of a Syrian violation it is prepared to impose measures under Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter -- a provision that is used to authorize sanctions or the use of military force. But it doesn't have to"

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The alleged Syrian attack in August is the worst chemical attack in 25 years, killing 1,400 civilians.

A UN report on the attack did not assign blame but Western experts have said that it could have only been carried out by the Syrian government — a claim balked at by both Russia and the Assad regime, which claim that the weapons were used by the rebels.

Read the UN chemical weapons inspectors' report here.