The first cracks have appeared in the Geneva deal on Syria's chemical weapons. Talks between the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, in Geneva at the weekend, led to the publication of a timetable to destroy Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014.
A meeting on Monday followed between Kerry and the UK and French foreign ministers, William Hague and Laurent Fabius. They agreed to push for a "strongly worded" resolution in the UN Security Council to ensure Assad complies. But Russia has dismissed this call, and has accused Western governments of rewriting the agreement, says John Lichfield in The Independent.
The deal will, in any case, have disastrous consequences, says Tom Rogan on The Guardian's website. "Sheltered" by President Putin, Assad will use Geneva's inspection protocols as a "merry-go-round of distraction and feigned sincerity" while he slaughters civilians. It is a "catastrophe" for the US: Putin has tied American power to the "procedural absurdity of the UN". The significance of this should "not be underestimated". Putin has created a "new international order": Obama might thank him for releasing him from leadership, but it will cost him "dear".
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Such pessimism is unwarranted, says Michael Cohen in The Guardian. The agreement "fulfils key policy goals" without firing a shot. Obama wanted to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them, and to make it clear their use will not be tolerated. Forcing Assad into agreeing the deal is "humiliating" for the regime, and as Russia is the "de facto guarantor" of his compliance, he is under huge pressure to comply.A refusal to do so, would not only jeopardise their relationship (it would embarrass Moscow by showing that it can't control its allies), but would also give the US a "clear casus belli" to use force.
This is also "a win for Russian diplomacy". Getting Russia to "operate inside the international system and work constructively to uphold international norms... is altogether a positive".
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