Background Briefing in Geneva
September 14, 2013
MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. So we have a group of experts here. So this is, of course, on background for attribution to senior State Department officials. They’ll do just a brief opening to go through some of the paper that all of you should have, and then we’ll of course take some questions.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Hopefully I’ll be able to put two sentences together after many hours of negotiations into the morning hours and then again this morning.
But really, what has been achieved here in the last couple of days, as the Secretary said, is consequential, and has the potential to, in fact, eliminate Syrian chemical weapons, which would be an extraordinary step forward not only in Syria and for the protection of people’s lives in Syria, which were so horrifically lost both in the conventional war and of course in the quite unnamable, unspeakable act of August 21st, but it also sends a very powerful message to countries around the world that international norms against weapons of mass destruction are going to be held – upheld by the international community, and that people will face consequences for their use – in this case, the most serious consequence, which is they will be eliminated. The regime will no longer have control over them, and they will be destroyed and eliminated.
You have three documents. The first is a framework for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons. And just to explain a little bit of what is going to happen here is that a draft decision that we are – have drafted with our Russian colleagues will go to OPCW asking for them to invoke special procedures for expeditious destruction of Syrian chemical weapons program. And in that special procedure, one invokes stringent verification of those processes. We have established an annex, which is Annex A, which are the principles that we believe OPCW should use in moving forward, and those principles will be embedded in our request to OPCW. And we believe, as the document says, we think these extraordinary procedures are necessary because of the use of weapons, these weapons in Syria, and the volatility of the Syrian civil war, and of course, the potential for reuse again.
We – that procedure, that process which OPCW will move forward on, will be embedded in a UN Security Council resolution. We did not come here to negotiate the resolution. That is being done in New York. That’s already begun in New York. So what we agreed here is that those decisions, that OPCW process, and the things that we have outlined in these documents, will become content of the UN Security Council resolution, but that, of course, will be negotiated by the council, though I think the fact that Russia and the United States have agreed to these principles, agreed to this process, agreed to these timelines, will carry significant weight in the development of that resolution.
The resolution will contain steps to ensure verification and effective implementation. We’ll request the UN Secretary General, in consultation with OPCW, to submit recommendations to the Security Council on an expedited basis regarding the UN’s role in eliminating the chemical weapons program.
Very importantly, very importantly, we agreed that the UN Security Council resolution should provide for review on a regular basis the implementation in Syria of the decision of the Executive Council of the OPCW, and in the event of noncompliance, including unauthorized transfer or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
QUESTION: That was a moment where Lavrov corrected Kerry during the press conference, right? The word, “should.” Didn’t that happen?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t recall, truly.
MODERATOR: Why don’t we finish, and then we can go to our questions.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, okay.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The draft — the proposed joint draft decision to OPCW supports the application of Article 8 of the Chemical Weapons Convention, just as how the two are connected together, which provides that any referral of cases of noncompliance should go to the UN Security Council, UN General Assembly.
We also reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons involved, and we have someone here who can answer for you finally what we mean by that. I know the Secretary mentioned locations. He was — sort of got ahead of himself a little bit. We have not come to an agreement on all of the locations yet, so I want to correct the record. We discussed — and our briefer will tell you — how many locations we believe there are. But I think that that conversation will continue and continue with OPCW, as well.
We are both committed to the immediate international control over chemical weapons and their components in Syria. We expect Syria to submit, within a week, a comprehensive listing that will include names, types, quantities of chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, location and form of storage production, and research and development facilities. So, within a week, what is commonly known as a declaration, at least an initial declaration, should be accomplished.
QUESTION: That goes to the OPCW?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That goes to OPCW, yes.
We also determined — and you will see this in Annex B, which we finally called the Destruction Document — that there are ways to, in fact, deal with these chemical weapons. Removal may indeed turn out to be an important way to do this if feasible, under OPCW supervision, and to be destroyed outside of Syria, if possible. So, there is removal, there is destruction in place. There are different methodologies for destruction, whether inside or outside of Syria, and indeed, a lot of work will have to be done, and we have briefers here, as you know, who can talk to you about the different methodologies and modalities for destruction, which I have learned more about than I care to.
We have included in Annex B a schedule, which is also reflected in Annex A, of how we think this should go forward. This will cover not only chemical weapons, stocks of chemical weapons agents, but their precursors, specialized CW equipment, CW munitions themselves, and the elimination of facilities for the development and production of these weapons. So it’s quite comprehensive.
We also believe that — and will say that — the Syrians must provide to the OPCW, the UN, and other supporting personnel, immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria. So that is, B, both declared and undeclared, disclosed and undisclosed.
And, as I said before, the procedures of OPCW will be reinforced by UN Security Council resolution, which we suggest should include a mechanism to ensure the right of unfettered access and rapid access.
We have said that personnel should be dispatched as rapidly as possible to control, remove, and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities. We think the P5 may have capabilities they can bring to this, and we welcome their support. And we will work very closely to ensure the security arrangements that might be necessary for this to be carried out. There are a lot, a lot, a lot of details that still have to be sorted through. And in two-and-a-half days our experts literally met around the clock. I mean quite literally. And they did an enormous amount of work.
The truth is that I know you’ve heard that the Russians gave us ideas. And, in fact, Ambassador Kislyak came in to see me — I don’t even remember which day last week — and brought me some ideas. And we had some ideas. But no one had a full-blown plan, no one. I could not call what the two pages the Russians gave me a document, a plan, but useful ideas. We had useful ideas. We had groups that have been meeting for a year between our national security councils to talk about the elimination and destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, because the entire world understood that if we got to a peace, we were going to have to deal with the chemical weapons. We are glad to be now destroying them, even before we have a peace, because it may save lives. We, of course, want that peace as much as we want the elimination of these chemical weapons.
So, there have been, I think, five meetings of that group over the past year. So we had already had some experience working with each other and sharing expert information. But we did not come to this meeting with a full-fledged plan. The meeting was put together logistically in 24 hours. So people had to create all of this here. And I am really — hats off to my expert colleagues — I am not one — who just did an extraordinary job of helping those of us who were doing the negotiating to understand what we need to do here.
So, Annex A is the principles for the decision document; Annex B is the drawing framework on the destruction. These documents have all been agreed to by Russia and by the United States.
So, let me finish by saying that we think there are a number of things that got achieved here, many of which the Secretary mentioned, but I just want to mention them again, because I think they are important.
First, that we worked constructively with the Russians to address an international situation of great concern to the international community, and we hope this will also be a deterrence to other countries seeking or having WMD, including Iran and North Korea.
We believe that once this is implemented — in fact, just merely taking control, international control of these weapons, will immediately more effectively degrade and diminish the CW threat. And we think that’s quite important. As the Secretary said, he, the President of the United States, have always hoped that a diplomatic solution, rather than military action, would get us to this place.
We agreed on the scope of the program, how large it was and what types of chemical weapons involved. And, as I said, we have a briefer who can answer that question for you.
We agreed on specific timelines. For all of this to happen in the — by the first half of 2014 is daunting, to say the least. And that within a week, Syria has to put forward a comprehensive listing. So you will see the timelines.
We agreed on an unprecedented use of CWC special procedures. For expeditious destruction and stringent verification, we put in place that Syrians must provide immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites. There was agreement to destroy all CW, including consideration for destruction outside of Syria as one modality worth pursuing.
We, I think, strengthened the executive council of OPCW’s extraordinary procedures and full implementation through a Security Council resolution, bringing the entire weight of the international community to bear.
And, of course, in the event of noncompliance, the sides commit to impose measures under Chapter 7 in that UN Resolution.
So, hats off to my amazing colleagues. And I would say the discussions were very professional among the experts. They know each other, there was great regard. We have here our permanent representative from OPCW. They had their — a representative member of OPCW, which I think was immensely helpful. For instance, people who know each other work with each other. So we’re here.
QUESTION: Can you — can we, since we’re talking about eliminating, controlling, what is the shared assessment? What do they have? What types —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay.
QUESTION: It’s really essentially to understanding —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Yes, yes, yes, okay. So, [Senior State Department Official Two], can you tell us?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: United States and Russia agreed that Syria had a stockpile that includes chemical warfare agents, as well as the precursors for those agents. Taken together, we judge that there is approximately 1,000 metric tons of these agents and precursors.
QUESTION: Can you break that down between Syria and another —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We agree that it includes (inaudible) agents such as sulfur mustard, as well as nerve agents, such as sarin.
QUESTION: Is there a breakdown on how much of each?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No.
QUESTION: And —
QUESTION: What did the Russians come in believing the number was?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t think it’s relevant in the sense that we’ve come to an agreement. We weren’t all that far off.
QUESTION: What about the number of sites that were involved?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: As was indicated — this was not discussed in detail. In the U.S. view, there probably are at least 45 sites associated with Syria’s CW program, nearly half of which, we previously assessed, housed exploitable quantities of CW materials.
We note, however, that Syria may have removed exploitable chemicals from some of these sites. We have limited information regarding this activity, however.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, (inaudible)? So before this discussion, United States had identified 45 sites that either had weapons or had precursors, but you’re not sure of the number now? Is that —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Forty-five associated with the program.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Which would include a range of various types of facilities. Of those 45, about half we judge had exploitable quantities of chemicals.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And, as the Secretary said, we are aware of reports that Assad has been moving things around. So, if he’s been moving things around, what exactly the configuration is today may not be the same as when this assessment was last carried out.
QUESTION: When was that? When was this assessment last carried out?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s an evolving assessment that has —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Rolling, it’s a rolling assessment.
QUESTION: Can we — how do we identify the American officials —
MODERATOR: I think you can do “U.S. Official”.
QUESTION: And how many sites does the Russians have — think they have?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think the Russians are of — let me put it this way. We spend a lot of time looking at Syria. They spend less time looking at Syria. It’s not the same relationship that we have. And so, I think they are sorting through their own assessments.
QUESTION: They didn’t offer an estimate?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They came to agreement with us on the amount and the types.
QUESTION: But not the number of locations?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Not the number of locations, but we had very little discussion about it, quite frankly.
QUESTION: But surely they believe that there is at least one site.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes, of course. They believe there are sites. Yes, Matt. They believe there are sites. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: They do believe — don’t they believe there are multiple sites?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They believe there is more than one site, yes.
QUESTION: Is it your assessment that of these fortified sites, the majority, or all of them, are under the control right now of — in areas of the Syrian regime control?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: As the Secretary indicated, the regime is committed to securing these materials, and has moved — we’ve seen indications of them moving materials in response to security concerns.
QUESTION: So you don’t believe any of them are in areas that are controlled by the opposition?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t have any indication for that.
QUESTION: And was that a topic of discussion between Secretary Kerry and Lavrov, or —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sure, sure.
QUESTION: And to what end?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: To an end that we came to understand where we agree and where we disagree.
QUESTION: So they — do they think that some of these sites are under rebel control?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think you all have heard what the Russians have said publicly for days. They believe — I don’t want to speak for the Russian Government, so I am reporting what you all have reported, and you all have reported that the Russians believe that the opposition is responsible for what occurred, that the opposition has used chemical weapons. They have sent in reports to that regard. So —
QUESTION: Well, I don’t know what they believe, either. But, I mean, what was the discussion like over the last couple of days about whether —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Most of the discussion was not about who was responsible for the 21st. We each know each other’s strongly-held views. The discussion was about how to move forward and eliminate this chemical weapons program.
QUESTION: But to follow on Anne’s question, they can’t agree on the — that all the sites are in government-controlled areas, and that these are — the exhaustive list of the sites, because to agree to that would be to acknowledge that the government carried out the attacks.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, you’ll have to ask them what their thinking is, Michael.
QUESTION: No, but as a factual matter, is there agreement that the sites, the weapons sites, are controlled by the regime?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We did not sit with a map and go over where we think all of those 45 sites are with the Russians, and see if they agree with us.
QUESTION: So that — so no agreement yet.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right, there is no agreement yet on that.
QUESTION: When do —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There is no — I mean we didn’t spend time pursuing it.
QUESTION: We have heard from both sides repeatedly in the last few days that compromise would be an essential ingredient of these negotiations and a final product of negotiations. So tell us, if you could, where the United States compromised. What did you seek that you didn’t get?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: James, at the end of the day, the things that most mattered I believe we got. And what most mattered was to move very rapidly to international control over the chemical weapons program, to have a very aggressive timetable to eliminate them, to have the special expedited procedures with stringent verification embedded in a Security Council resolution. That is including on events of noncompliance that measures would occur under Chapter 7.
So I, from our perspective — did they agree to every single word we wanted? No. Did we have hard-fought negotiations? Yes. Where we could have done this in an hour. But we feel that we have moved — we are able to move forward to do what we set out to do.
QUESTION: One follow-up, one more follow-up question, please.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I want to say one thing, though —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — that gets lost in all of this as we all talk about sort of the tick-tock and the back-and-forth. The real final responsibility here is Syrian. And this has gotten lost in all of our discussions and all of our commentary.
QUESTION: Have they agreed to it?
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes. The — yes. You will see in this document several times it says, “Understanding the Syrian regime is most responsible,” “most accountable,” “is accountable.” It is the regime. You will see that many times in this document.
QUESTION: No, no, no. Has Syrian agreed to this?
QUESTION: Because Lavrov said in that room before —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We weren’t negotiating with the Syrians.
QUESTION: Were the Russians —
QUESTION: He said that he has not spoken with the Syrians.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That may be.
QUESTION: So —
QUESTION: So we cannot say that the Syrians have agreed to this.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No. All we can say is what the Syrians have said publicly, and that is that they will make a declaration that they have — want to accede to the CWC, become a member of OPCW, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
QUESTION: But no private assurance through the Russians or any other diplomatic channel that the Assad government is prepared to implement this.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No. The only thing I would say to that — and again, you will have to ask the Russians themselves — is that Russia has signed on to the set of responsibilities laid out in these documents. And they are, as are we, accountable to working as hard as we can to make it all real.
QUESTION: When —
QUESTION: Because this depends on Assad’s government to follow through, are you effectively saying that you assume Assad will be there for a while, and that the U.S. (inaudible) —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, because you also —
QUESTION: — is being subsumed to the goal of this agreement?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No. You saw that the Secretary, while he was here, and then the Secretary — Minister Lavrov had meetings with Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint special envoy for the Geneva conference on Syria. The critical premise of the Geneva communique is that at our next meeting of the Geneva conference on Syria there is agreement between the United States and Russia that the objective of that conference will be to move to a transitional governing body with full executive authority by mutual consent. And by the very nature of that statement, from our perspective, it is — does not include Assad.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about —
QUESTION: So that government would assume his obligations.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That government would have to assume these obligations, yes.
QUESTION: Question about removal. Russia is — just thinking out loud, here — Russia is a close ally of Syria. They have the capability to destroy chemical weapons, some of which was probably paid for by (inaudible) funds. I mean is that sort of what you’re thinking is a possible destination?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Russia is certainly one option.
QUESTION: Have they expressed —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have discussed it, but we have to do the technical work now to look at each of these — we don’t — OPCW, in the lead, will look at each of these sites, determine what is most useful.
And let me turn to one of our other experts to talk about sort of how this works.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: I think the key point about destruction is that in these expert talks there was no rhetoric. There was a lot of business about challenges big and small. The most important thing that we got from the Secretary and the Minister, and that came right down into the working groups as well, is a commitment to remove this — to eliminate this threat as rapidly as possible. And with that in mind, we discussed the challenges, the categories of weapons, and of equipment — very importantly — that will need to be eliminated, and discussed the technologies available for doing that.
In that context, we both approached with an open mind the question of whether we could accomplish this goal of eliminating the threat more rapidly by doing some destruction in-country and some destruction outside of the country. That is, removal from Syria of certain stocks. There are clear advantages and disadvantages to removing some of the chemical elements, chemical agents, from Syria. It is potentially faster. It also has certain risks and costs any time you move weapons or chemicals of this sort.
We had a good discussion on these points, but we require further discussions within our governments and between the two governments, and then ultimately also with OPCW and other partners before getting to a final decision on whether or not all stocks will be destroyed in-country or out-of-country.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Or some hybrid.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Or some —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Which is most likely.
QUESTION: Can I ask about what we have heard from President Assad himself on Russian television the past few days? He made, to my eye, two demands, the first of which appears to have been addressed by this document.
The first demand he made was that the United States either unilaterally or — and/or the United Nations Security Council would have to remove any threat of force before he would comply. That seems to have been addressed by this document, with the Chapter 7 authority that you discussed, and the comments the Secretary made about the President always reserving certain rights.
The other demand that President Assad made was that for him to comply would require that the United States cease arming the Syrian opposition forces. Was there any discussion of that or any agreement in any form or fashion regarding that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No.
QUESTION: And that will not cease?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No. And any — the United States has been supporting the moderate opposition, and has been very clear, as the Secretary has discussed, as the President discussed in his national television address, that we believe in supporting the moderate opposition in whatever ways are appropriate for us to do. There are a number of other partners who are working to do so, as well, to get a balance of power on the ground, such that we get to the Geneva conference on Syria and get a transitional governing body with full executive authority by mutual consent, and let the people of Syria determine their own destiny.
QUESTION: But there is no attempt to seek a cease-fire in order to implement this process.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, because — for a number of reasons. One, be quite difficult to do at this point. Moderate opposition and the regime are not the only players in this civil war. Second, as was mentioned, we believe — or let me say it the way the briefer did — we have no indication that any of these sites are anywhere but under the regime’s control. So, therefore, getting access is a different matter, even in this non-permissive environment, than it would be in — if, in fact, these were in control in highly-contested areas.
QUESTION: Just to clarify that one point, the opposition has asserted, as you know, in recent days that the CW has been moved to Iraq and Lebanon. I gather from those comments that you don’t believe that’s the case.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Anything you can say about that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We assess they’re under regime control.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
QUESTION: In Syria?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We believe they’re under regime control in Syria.
QUESTION: Why is that so heartening? I mean you’re going to be going — sending people into areas —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s not — don’t get me wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Jay.
QUESTION: No, I mean there is going to be a —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We need security.
QUESTION: — Hezbollah and (inaudible) guys running around this area.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We will need security, no question. And security — we actually had experts here on security. We had, quite frankly — just a little tidbit — we had CENTCOM do a quick paper for us before we left about sort of options for security. Broad parameters, nothing very complex. But just to give us some idea of the dimensions of the security challenge to secure a site. Even — you’re quite right — even in a regime-controlled area, we would need considerable security. OPCW would need considerable security for protection of the site, if nothing else. So, it is a — the security is still a daunting challenge, even given regime control.
QUESTION: Does the OPCW even have the manpower for this?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, you’ll see in these papers it calls for other personnel to make themselves available and to join with OPCW. And my understanding is this has happened before.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: They have drawn on outside help before, yes.
QUESTION: But aren’t you worried it’s going to be tough to get people to sort of donate staff for something that is this potentially dangerous?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: It has potential danger. Security is a huge issue that must be addressed in more detail. But two points. One, the U.S. and Russia committed in this document to help find the resources with friends around the world. And, two, a number of countries have already communicated to us their readiness to contribute to this effort.
QUESTION: Does that — can I just ask two things? One, does that include the Czechs and some of the Nordic countries?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: We have had previous discussions with a number of our allies and friends in Europe and elsewhere, particularly those who have technical capabilities in their military for dealing with CW —
QUESTION: Okay, I’m assuming that you mean the Czechs. Are the Russians okay with a NATO member being — doing this?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: It would not be a NATO operation.
QUESTION: I understand that. But they are a NATO —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We will — as I said, Matt, there are lots of details to go.
QUESTION: And then just the second one. More broadly, are the Russian — have you guys — taking this based on the (inaudible) briefing that was given at the White House yesterday. When you guys talk about Chapter 7, are you willing — are the Russians under the wrong impression when they think that you’re not going to push for all necessary means in this resolution? Can we — should we be writing that you guys are reserving rights under full Chapter 7 authority? Whether you expect you’re going to get —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: This is what I would say. This will be negotiated at the UN.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have a view. Russia has a view. There are many other —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — players on the Security Council who also have views.
QUESTION: And I understand that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: This will play out over time.
QUESTION: But knowing that the Russians will veto that, are they —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think you can see —
QUESTION: Are you going to insist on that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think you can see, from the way that this is constructed, that we believe that one critical element has been agreed to, and that is, in event of noncompliance, that Chapter 7 will apply.
QUESTION: Right. But the problem — and I can understand how you want to leave it vague. But the problem is that they’re going to veto anything that is going to allow use of force. You understand that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I do.
QUESTION: Okay. So — I mean I’m not trying to be (inaudible) —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, no — really? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It just comes naturally. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m going to put you in a room with Lavrov some time, Matt.
QUESTION: He and I get along together great. We smoke and drink and —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, yeah, I’ll bet.
QUESTION: But listen. I want just to know if we should be writing that you guys are not taking anything off the table in terms of Chapter 7, or if the Russians and the rest of the world can be — assured, I guess, is the right word — that you are going to seek some kind of sanctions, rather than military action, under the Geneva —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: All I can say today is you heard what was said in the backgrounder yesterday in Washington. I am certainly not going to —
QUESTION: You don’t want to give it up here, now.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — dispute that.
QUESTION: Can I ask on the — sorry.
QUESTION: You go first.
QUESTION: On the removal and destruction, are you able to tell us which countries they will go to? And what are the methods of destruction? Sorry if you just addressed this (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think — why don’t we catch you up on the methods of destruction? I think [Senior State Department Official Three] did a little of that on terms of —
QUESTION: Which countries —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — which countries. There aren’t tons of them. But can you — do you know, off the top of your head, how many countries have — you can also take a machine and put it in a country that doesn’t have —
QUESTION: Okay, okay.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — the capabilities. So there are permutations of this.
QUESTION: And is that part of what you’re asking our international partners to do, is to help actually facilitate a destruction?
QUESTION: A little more (inaudible) would be helpful.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: I think the first — well, let’s talk about removal from Syria to a third country. We are still discussing ideas with the Russians, and it would be premature to identify any particular third country as the destination.
QUESTION: Including the United States?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: It would be premature to identify any third country as the destination.
There are nations that have CW destruction capability. The United States and Russia have active facilities completing the elimination of our own CW stockpiles, as we each committed to back in 1997. There are other states with similar technical capability. In addition, I would note that the U.S. and Russia are the leaders in destruction technology. And the U.S., in particular — Department of Defense has done very — has done excellent work over the last couple of years in pursuing a portable, transportable model of the same hydrolysis technology that we use to destroy our own weapons that could be deployed to another country, whether Syria or another country.
So, we have options out there that we are jointly evaluating with the Russians in terms of cost, feasibility, safety, and, above all, speed.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And there are a number of other technical ways to destroy: some safer, some cleaner, some dirtier, some harder, some easier. There is a pretty wide range.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: And it is also different for the different materials. Nerve agents are more — are better for — destroyed through hydrolysis. Mustard gas may be better destroyed through incineration, but can also be destroyed through hydrolysis. Production equipment, of course, is separate from the actual chemicals. And there you need a big sledge hammer and some other equipment.
QUESTION: Can I just ask? Pending destruction and all that, is there a plan to put — and I may have missed this — monitors in the country, just to prevent them from using it —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It — we will —
QUESTION: — (inaudible) remove critical — can you — are there things you can do to disable their capacities offensively, before — even though it’s a compressed destruction schedule, but prior to that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right. Well, the documents call for immediate inspections of all sites, and for initial inspections to all be done by November of all sites, to take control of the sites in whatever means we need to do that.
[Senior State Department Official Three], why don’t you talk a little bit?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: We did get into some good detail with our Russian technical colleagues. There are steps that you can take that reduce the capability of anyone to use these chemicals against people that you can take even before you get into destruction of the chemicals themselves. And that includes, for binary agents, simply burning the less-dangerous alcohol-based component of the binary agent. It includes destroying unfilled munitions. It includes destroying mixing equipment. And each of these is far less technically complex than destroying the agent itself. And we do have agreement that we need to put our most urgent priority on taking those steps that reduce that danger.
QUESTION: I don’t mean to skip around, but I just wanted to take you back a moment to what you said about the schedule here being daunting. I mean past efforts like this have taken years. I mean you really, like, swear to God, think you can get this done by the middle of next year?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: I describe it as ambitious. And —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They’re targets.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: They are — that’s right.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They are targets.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: It is not —
QUESTION: Are they realistic targets?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: It is not a schedule, it is not a deadline. They are targets, goals, timeframes, as you wish.
QUESTION: Are they realistic goals?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Well, that was an important part of the technical discussions, and we went back and forth with our Russian colleagues. They agree that this is ambitious. We believe it is possible. I think the Russians are a little less ready to say it is possible. But they have agreed that this is what we will seek to do.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So the best way I summarize this whole thing, this is very, very difficult. Very, very difficult. But it is doable.
QUESTION: But, overall, you seem pretty impressed with the sincerity of the Russians.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I — what I will say about that is they were incredibly serious, at a technical level very professional, working to solve problems, come to agreements, figure out how to do this. Minister Lavrov is a very smart guy.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: He was at the UN for a very long time. He understands the international, multi-lateral community very well, its procedures and its processes. We all brought lawyers. Ours was fabulous. And so, this was hard-fought. I don’t want to kid you. This was — I’m exhausted. This was hard-fought.
QUESTION: I mean John Kerry was pretty fulsome in his praise for Putin. I mean you’re going to need this cooperation —
QUESTION: He called him a liar about a week ago.
PARTICIPANT: He also said in his remarks, “We don’t agree on everything,” and made that very clear. So that was in the same context.
QUESTION: You’re going to need that sort of constructive engagement, going forward.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Look. To do this, it’s Russia and the U.S., it’s the international community. But it is first and foremost what Syria has to do.
QUESTION: So the first litmus test, really, will be a week from now.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The declaration.
QUESTION: The OPCW should have this declaration. And if it’s seen as really under-developed, that will be the first litmus test. That’s accurate?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It certainly will be a first indication of the sincerity and seriousness of purpose here, yes.
QUESTION: When does the (inaudible) —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) —
QUESTION: — today?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: I think our goal is by Friday, but we’ll see.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Russians —
QUESTION: By next Friday?
QUESTION: A week?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Yeah.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: A week.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Russians —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: A week, give or take, yeah.
QUESTION: — are communicating to Iran at all on this? Because if they —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Do you want them to?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t know.
QUESTION: No. I mean if you want security in these regions controlled by the Alawites, the Iranians and Hezbollah are going to be central to that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I would imagine lots of conversations will have to go on by lots of people to make this all real.
QUESTION: Two questions — go ahead, Janet, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, I just wanted to ask (inaudible). But are you able to say, if this is achieved, how much of the world’s remaining chemical stock would you have got rid of?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Do you know?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Not off the top of my head.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No. We’d have to come back to you on even a guesstimate of that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Is this one of — this is one of the larger remaining stocks in the world, that’s correct. This is one of the largest remaining stocks. There are others that are large, but this is one of the larger remaining ones.
MODERATOR: Before you go — because these people have been working through the night for three days; we’ve got to wrap this up here soon. So —
QUESTION: Two quick things. One is the documents are explicit, and the statements via the principles were explicit on the consequences that the Assad regime would face if there is noncompliance. At least or the processes for — by which some sort of consequence would be sought. But as Jay just mentioned, the very first litmus test is the declaration. You have not addressed, it seems to me, what the consequences would be for an incomplete, evasive, or otherwise unsatisfactory declaration. And I have a follow-on.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, actually, it may well be seen as an event of noncompliance, even without the resolution under OPCW verification, stringent verification and procedures, because now having signed up to the CWC, one of the obligations under that is this declaration. So, it is not without a basis for taking action.
QUESTION: And lastly, on the way over here, in the background briefing, it was made clear that United States officials would be able to discern quite quickly — I think was the words that were used — the seriousness of intent here. And I wonder if, by way of some background —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Who did that background?
QUESTION: Somebody brilliant.
QUESTION: A very wise person. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: A brilliant and anonymous individual.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
QUESTION: And I wonder if, by way of providing some color or behind-the-scenes anecdotal material, you might be able to tell us when and/or how early on, quite quickly, you knew it was real.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I guess in a couple of ways.
QUESTION: Was there a moment when it gelled and you said, “This is for real, this is going to go somewhere”?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I would say it took the first 24 hours for us to know there was — look. I think we thought there was some seriousness because they got some ideas to us before we ever got here. That was a good thing. That was a good thing. That they told us they were bringing a team of experts, that was a very good thing. And they gave us the list of who the experts were, many of whom were known by my colleagues. And that was a good thing, because it meant they weren’t just coming, like, policy folks like me, who know a little bit, but not much, who were going to sit around and bat ideas around. They brought the people who really know the substance of this. So that was an early positive indication.
As we got into the negotiations, as discussions got going, you know, it took a while to make sure we were going to get to something that would be meaningful, verifiable, enforceable. The test that the President, in his remarks — I think today, in his — is it today in his radio address?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: Yeah.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Laid out. So, I think, in that first 24-hour period it became clear that we were going to get to some real work here. Now, then we had to fight through a lot of it.
QUESTION: What was the hardest fight? (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think I’ll keep that to myself.
QUESTION: Does the OPCW normally refer violations directly to the Security Council? Because I’m curious. You said that even without a UN resolution there could be punishment for the — for an evasive or whatever declaration. Do they —
QUESTION: Is it like the (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: (Inaudible) expeditious procedures.
QUESTION: Yeah, because once they’re locked into that process, I mean that — there are legal implications there, aren’t there?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: There is a process provided for in the treaty. It has, up to this point, not been used.
QUESTION: So there is no precedent for the OPCW referring something to the — or it can take action on its own?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: We haven’t had a case —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: — of this magnitude that we’ve had to deal with yet.
QUESTION: Okay, so —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: But that is why we are asking — that is why we are sending this decision document to use the special procedures that call for stringent verification measures to, in fact, make real OPCW, in fact, taking action.
QUESTION: And —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And that action is — it is in the documents —
QUESTION: In the convention, itself.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — in the convention, itself.
QUESTION: So there is a legal process set from the —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That it — there is a legal process to set — to go to the Security Council and the UN General Assembly.
QUESTION: But the OPCW itself can’t impose any punishment, any measure, right? It has to go to the Security Council.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It — OPCW is an animal of the CWC.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And so, it is the implementing agency of the CWC. And the CWC — I don’t — I’m not a lawyer, but the CWC does have enforcement provisions that begin with a referral to the Security Council.
QUESTION: And just one last thing. The OPCW isn’t going to look at this and say, “No way, we’re not touching this with a 10-foot pole,” are they?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, they know it’s coming.
QUESTION: You’re pretty sure (inaudible) —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They knew it was coming.
QUESTION: But it’s a U.S. stooge, this OPCW?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Certainly not. I did talk with the director general this morning, and —
QUESTION: Right. He’s not Iranian or North Korean, is he?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: He’s Turkish, a Turkish diplomat.
QUESTION: All right. So you’re pretty sure (inaudible) —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think they’re committed (inaudible) —
QUESTION: You’re sure they’ll suck up to the plate and take this on. Right.
MODERATOR: Okay, let’s — Warren, why don’t you wrap this up for us?
QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official One], I’m just curious, in terms of how this played out, whether at any point over the last 7 to 10 days the Russians, on behalf of the Syrians, said, “If we’re talking about Syria’s chemical weapons we have to talk about other weapons of mass destruction,” and particularly Israel’s? Did they try to do that? Because I would think —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, you heard the Minister say today, talking about the nuclear-free weapons zone, or whatever the title is, that [Senior State Department Official Three] has to deal with all of the time, and I fortunately only deal with some of the time. So it’s a subject matter on the mind of the Russians. It’s on our mind, as well.
We believe that, ultimately, we indeed should have a weapons-free zone throughout the world. So it’s an ambition that’s part of our nonproliferation objectives.
QUESTION: But did they try to write it into —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They, of course, would have appreciated it being addressed. We didn’t think it was appropriate.
MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.