British Foreign Minister William Hague, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry vote to approve a resolution that will require Syria to give up its chemical weapons on Friday.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously late Friday to secure and eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile after a nerve gas attack on a Damascus suburb last month left hundreds dead. It was the first binding resolution passed on the Syrian conflict in its 2 1/2 year history.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the resolution, saying the “strong, enforceable, precedent-setting” resolution proved diplomacy is powerful enough to peacefully “defuse the worst weapons of war.”
Kerry said that the resolution for the first time makes a determination that “use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a threat to international peace and security.”
The resolution, however, does not authorize the use of force against Syria if President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is found to be in violation, action that was previously sought by the U.S. but rebuffed by Russia and China.
“The resolution does not fall under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and does not allow any automatic enforcement of coercive measures,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the Security Council vote.
One provision of the resolution formally endorses a plan for a political transition in Syria agreed on at an international conference in Geneva in June 2012, Reuters reported. A new peace conference could take place in Geneva in mid-November.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Security Council action was the “first hopeful news on Syria in a long time,” but said it “is not a license to kill with conventional weapons.”
Assad agreed to declare and destroy all of Syria’s chemical weapons after the world’s deadliest chemical attack in two decades struck the suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21, igniting world outrage.
“We expect to have an advance team on the ground (in Syria) next week,” Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons spokesman Michael Luhan told the Associated Press after the plan was approved.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it began in March 2011.