Following several long weeks of tension and indecision, the U.N. Security Council has now formally agreed on a resolution to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile — the first legally binding action the council has taken on Syria since the conflict began in early 2011.
The Security Council voted unanimously (15-0) on Friday night to back the draft document that had been drawn up earlier by Russia and the U.S. The legally binding resolution demands that weapons inspectors have "unfettered access" to suspected chemical weapons sites in Syria, also mandating that all chemical weapons be completely dismantled by June 2014.
And this is now looking significantly more doable: According to The Washington Post, officials from both the U.S. and Russia believe that most of Syria's arsenal could be destroyed in about nine months. Weapons experts are describing the vast majority of the nerve agents as "unweaponized" and in "liquid bulk" form — meaning that removing even just one part of the mixing equipment or toxin precursors would essentially eliminate the possibility of actually using the chemical weapons.
"Today's historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shortly after the resolution passed. He added, however, that "a red light for one form of weapons does not mean a green light for others. This is not a license to kill with conventional weapons."
Echoing this cautiousness, France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that, "despite its clear usefulness, one resolution alone will not save Syria."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on the other hand, hailed the vote as a clear success of international relations.
“The U.N. Security Council has demonstrated that diplomacy can be so powerful it can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war,” Kerry said. “Our collective resolve hardened tonight with a strong, enforceable, precedent-setting resolution requiring Syria to give up its chemical weapons.”
Accidental Diplomacy: 1, Carefully Planned Drone Strikes: 0.
Not everyone was pleased with the results of the vote, however. Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who had previously said negotiations were "an act of provocative weakness on America's part," are now calling the resolution "another triumph of hope over reality."
And they're not alone. The Syrian opposition has also voiced it's dissatisfaction with the U.N. move.
“We don’t believe the removal of chemical weapons will end the suffering of the Syrian people," the president of the Syrian Opposition Coalition told journalists. "We have emphasized the need to do more to end the war and particularly to stop the regime from using heavy weapons against population centers — particularly ballistic missiles and jets."
Earlier, the SNC president had also blamed the U.N., as well as the general international community, for failing to take more direct action Syria's escalating crisis.
"We came to the U.N. to announce to the international community the disappointment of the Syrian people in its failure and its abandonment of their moral, political and legal obligations toward a people who are being slaughtered everyday," the president told the news conference earlier on Friday.
According to a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an advance chemical weapons team will be on the ground in Syria by next week. Already, the OPCW has called for donations to help fund the disarmament — both China and the U.K have indicated their willingness to involve themselves, with Britain announcing Friday that it would donate $3 million to the OPCW's Syria Trust fund. The OPCW will give an exhaustive and final report on their findings to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by the end of next month.