UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council, long paralyzed by deep divisions over how to deal with the Syrian conflict, is about two days away from agreeing on a resolution to require Damascus to dismantle its chemical weapons stockpiles, Russia's deputy foreign minister said Wednesday.
Gennady Gatilov told The Associated Press that the text of the resolution will include a reference to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows for military and nonmilitary actions to promote peace and security.
But he stressed that there will not be an automatic trigger for such measures, which means the council will have to follow up with another resolution if Syria fails to comply.
The U.S. and Russia had been at odds on how to enforce the resolution. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met for nearly 90 minutes late Tuesday at the United Nations, and American officials said that while there had been progress in some areas, they couldn't agree on the text, which the U.S. had been insisting be enforceable.
President Barack Obama's threatened U.S. strikes against President Bashar Assad's regime following an Aug. 21 suspected poison gas attack has led to a flurry of diplomatic activity. Kerry made a surprise offer that Syria could avert U.S. military action by turning over "every single bit of his chemical weapons" to international control within a week. Russia, Syria's most important ally, and Assad's government quickly agreed on the broad proposal, but it has taken time and tough negotiations to work out the details.
The five permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — known as the P-5 have been discussing for the past few weeks what to include in a new resolution requiring that Syria's chemical weapons stockpile be secured and dismantled. The council has been blocked on Syria, with Russia and China vetoing three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to end the violence which has killed over 100,000 people.
But Gatilov told AP the negotiations are "going quite well" and the draft resolution should be finalized "very soon — within the next two day, I think."
As for Chapter 7, he said, "It will be mentioned but there is the understanding, of course, (that) there is no automaticity in engaging Chapter 7."
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant also reported progress.
"We are still working in the P-5 constructively on a text," he told AP.
"But there are still some differences," Lyall Grant said. "We hope to be able to iron them out, maybe even today, but certainly in the next few days so that we can adopt a resolution — a strong binding enforceable resolution with a united voice of the Security Council as soon as possible."
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations are continuing, said the two sides were "very, very close" and the U.S. "fully expects to have a resolution by the end of the week."
Work on the U.N. resolution is going on at the same time as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the body that will be in charge of securing and destroying the arms, is working on its own document to lay out its exact duties. The U.N. resolution will include the text of the OPCW's declaration and make it legally binding — so the OPCW must act first.
The Security Council is scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday, with many ministers attending the U.N. General Assembly present, and diplomats had hoped to be able to approve the Syria resolution this week.
But a U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations have been private, said the executive board of the OPCW isn't likely to meet before Sunday, which means that Security Council adoption of the resolution likely won't take place until next week.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called Syria's decision to abandon its chemical weapons "promising" but said "this should have been done long before."
He stressed, however, that the elimination of chemical weapons is not a solution to the Syrian conflict, where most people have been killed by other weapons including air bombardment, artillery, tanks and snipers.
Davutoglu said there must, therefore, be a parallel effort in the Security Council to adopt "a strong, robust" resolution that will ensure the legitimate rights of the Syrian people, provide humanitarian access to 7 million people in the country "who do not have food and other means of life" and assist hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries, including Turkey.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this story.