The diplomatic drive to purge Syria of its chemical weapons accelerated Friday as the full 15-member U.N. Security Council approved a resolution to ensure Syrian compliance, and the organization responsible for carrying out the destruction of those munitions announced a timetable that starts Tuesday, sooner than some had expected.
The Security Council resolution, a compromise finalized Thursday by the five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — is aimed at coercing the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad to comply with a pledge to relinquish its chemical weapons.
Although the resolution does not automatically threaten the use of force if Syria reneges — a Western concession granted to Russia — the measure represents the Security Council’s most significant action to date on the Syria conflict. Approval by all 15 members came swiftly Friday.
The resolution says Syria “shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons,” or transfer them to others.
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The vote was conducted shortly after the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the group in The Hague, Netherlands, that oversees the international treaty banning them, approved a separate schedule for inspections of chemical-weapons storage and production sites in Syria, with work to start Tuesday and a goal of complete elimination by mid-2014.
The pace reflected a dizzying rush of diplomacy that seemed unthinkable a few weeks ago, when the Obama administration was threatening Assad with missile strikes in response to an Aug. 21 chemical-weapons attack near Damascus that left more than 1,400 people dead, including more than 400 children.
After the U.N. vote, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Today’s historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time,” but he and others emphasized that much more needs to be done to stop the 2½ -year war that has left more 100,000 dead.