Mindful that Damascus could only be seeking to avoid Western military strikes, France said it would put forward a draft resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, making it enforceable with military action.
The prospect of a deal that could be enforced militarily met swift opposition from Russia, which has provided economic, military and diplomatic support to Assad throughout the 2½-year conflict.
Putin said the plan can only work if “the American side and those who support the U.S.A, in this sense, reject the use of force.” Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told his French counterpart that it is unacceptable for the resolution to cite Chapter 7, the U.N. resolution authorizing force, his ministry said in a statement.
Kerry, in turn, said the U.S. rejects a Russian suggestion that the U.N. endorsement come in the form of a non-binding statement from the Security Council president.
The U.S. has to have a full resolution — one that entails “consequences if games are played and somebody tries to undermine this,” he said.
The Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed opposition group, dismissed the Assad government’s turnaround as a maneuver to escape punishment for what it called a crime against humanity. The coalition had been hoping for military strikes from abroad to tip the balance in the war of attrition between rebels and Assad’s forces.
In a statement Tuesday, the Coalition said Moscow’s proposal “aims to procrastinate and will lead to more death and destruction of the Syrian people.”
“Crimes against humanity cannot be dropped by giving political concessions or by handing over the weapons used in these crimes,” the group said.
The plan would allow Assad to avoid the damage that U.S.-led strikes, no matter how narrow and limited, would likely inflict on a Syrian military already stretched thin and under tremendous strain from the civil war. While Assad would be forced to relinquish his chemical arms stockpile, doing so is unlikely to deal a devastating blow to his war machine.