Well before that, on 21 September 2013,
Prior to the OPCW beginning work in Syria, its 41-state Executive Council passed a formal resolution on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons  (referred to by the OPCW as a “decision”) authorising its staff to proceed. This aspired to complete the disarmament in the first half of 2014, as suggested in the framework document  agreed by John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on 27 September 2013. However, the decision says that this is “subject to the detailed requirements, including intermediate destruction milestones, to be decided by the Council not later than 15 November 2013”.
A state joining the Convention prior to its coming into force on 29 April 1997 was allowed 10 years to complete the destruction of its weapons, though a 5 year extension could be applied for (Article IV(6)). Both the US and Russia were given a 5-year extension until 29 April 2012, but both failed to destroy all their weapons by that date – and are therefore technically in breach of the Convention.
A state like
Meanwhile, in its decision the OPCW set as an immediate
objective to “complete as soon as possible and in any case not later than 1
November 2013, the destruction of chemical weapons production and
mixing/filling equipment”, so that no more weapons can be manufactured. According to the OPCW website ,
it achieved that objective and at the time writing (5 November 2013) it had conducted
verification activities at “21 out of 23 sites identified in
Exemplary co-operation by
Secretary of State, John Kerry, was even moved to say at a
press conference in
“I think it is extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were already being destroyed. I think it’s also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly, as they are supposed to. Now, we hope that will continue. I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road, but it’s a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning.” 
It was almost like old times, when in the early years of the
first Obama administration Senator John Kerry, then Chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, acted as Obama’s emissary to Bashir al-Assad and
met him on five or six occasions in
The Assad government will do its best to ensure that the elimination of its chemical weapons goes smoothly so that its reputation for straight dealing is enhanced internationally. For the same reason, the Syrian opposition has an interest in disrupting the process, particularly if such disruptions could be blamed on the government. For example, OPCW personnel could be physically attacked and prevented from travelling to the relevant sites.
Another possible source of
disruption is the provision in Article IX(8) of the Convention for so-called
“challenge” inspections. Under this, any
state party to the Convention can request that a facility in the territory of
another state party be inspected without delay for possible non-compliance with
the Convention. It’s within the bounds
of possibility that one of the states supporting the Syrian opposition could
use this provision to disrupt the process of verifying the elimination of
(Since it is not a party to the
“Strongly urging all remaining States not Party to the Convention to ratify or accede to it as a matter of urgency and without preconditions, in the interests of enhancing their own national security as well as contributing to global peace and security”
According to Sergey Lavrov, the
inclusion of this paragraph was proposed by
Security Council resolution 2118
The US – and the UK and France – were insistent that the Security Council must have a hand in the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, preferably by passing a resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that could be interpreted by them as authorising military action if in their eyes Syria failed to live up to its disarmament obligations.
The Security Council did pass a
resolution (2118) on 27 September 2013 
and passed it unanimously. But it wasn’t
a Chapter VII resolution authorising the use of force.
In this respect, the resolution implemented the framework document agreed by the US and Russia in Geneva on 14 September 2013 , which did not promise a Chapter VII resolution prescribing sanctions, even though the US, UK and France kept asserting otherwise.
Endorsing the OPCW decision
Resolution 2118 is mostly concerned with endorsing the decision of the OPCW, which had been taken a few hours earlier. Those aspects of the resolution were totally unnecessary since the OPCW is the implementing body for the Convention and under Article VIII(36) of the Convention it can refer any non-compliance issue that it cannot resolve itself to the Security Council.
The resolution also condemned “in the strongest possible
terms any use of chemical weapons, in particular the attack on 21 August 2013,
in violation of international law” (paragraph 3). However, it does not ascribe responsibility
for that attack. Later, it expresses the
Council’s “strong conviction that those individuals responsible for the use of
chemical weapons in the
Resolution 2118 also demands that non-state actors in
Hague on resolution 2118
Speaking after the resolution was passed, British Foreign Secretary William Hague tried to make the best of the failure of the US, UK and France to get what they wanted. It is, he said, “a groundbreaking resolution” :
“First, it recognizes that any use of chemical weapons is a threat to international peace and security. This establishes an important international norm that is essential in the wake of the Syrian regime’s appalling actions on 21 August. It upholds the principle of accountability for that proven use of chemical weapons. It imposes legally binding and enforceable obligations on the Syrian regime to comply with the decision adopted earlier this evening by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It makes clear that the Council shall impose measures under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations if there is non-compliance …”
In fact, the elimination of
Hague says that the resolution is “groundbreaking” because “it recognizes that any use of chemical weapons is a threat to international peace and security” and therefore “establishes an important international norm”.
The supposed importance of this arises from Article 39 of the UN Charter , the first Article in Chapter VII. There it is laid down that the Security Council can only apply economic or military sanctions if it has determined that a “threat to the peace” exists (or a “breach of the peace, or act of aggression” has been committed).
So now, the Security Council has apparently decided that
even the most trivial use of chemical weapons constitutes a “threat to
international peace and security” deserving of economic or military
sanctions. This is an absurdity. Why should the use chemical weapons be
singled out? Why not the use of high
explosive, which has been responsible for hundreds of times more deaths in this
world, including in
Back in 2004 in Resolution 1540 , the Security Council affirmed that “proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons … constitutes a threat to international peace and security” (and Resolution 2118 re-affirmed this in respect of chemical weapons). This means that if a state without these weapons at the moment acquires a few, this “constitutes a threat to international peace and security”, but the fact that several states already possess large amounts of them is not a threat. That is simply daft.
On 30 June 2012, the Action Group for
“The establishment of a transitional governing body which can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place. That means that the transitional governing body would exercise full executive powers. It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”
In paragraphs 16 and 17 of Resolution 2118, the Security
Council endorsed the Geneva Communiqué and called for the convening, as soon as
possible, of an international conference on
5 November 2013