The diplomatic drive to purge Syria of its chemical weapons accelerated Friday, as the full 15-member U.N. Security Council approved a breakthrough 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 measure finalized Thursday night 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 nonetheless represents the Security Council's most significant action to date on the Syria conflict. Approval by all 15 members came swiftly Friday night.
The vote was conducted shortly after the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the group 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.
Just a few weeks ago, the Obama administration was threatening Assad with missile strikes in response to an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack.