PARIS — Momentum to avoid Western missile strikes on Syria intensified Tuesday, as President Bashar Assad’s government accepted a plan to turn over its chemical weapons stockpile and France pitched a U.N. Security Council resolution to verify the disarmament.
With domestic support for a strike uncertain in the United States and little international appetite to join forces against Assad, the developments had the potential to blunt a thorny diplomatic problem and allow the Obama administration to back away from military action.
But neither effort attempts to end or even address the civil war that has left more than 100,000 dead in Syria and the main opposition bloc dismissed the chemical weapons plan as a largely meaningless measure that would allow Assad free rein to fight on with conventional weapons.
Syria’s foreign minister said the government would accept a plan from Russia, its most powerful ally, to give up its chemical weapons in order “to thwart U.S. aggression,” offering a diplomatic option for how to respond to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that the Obama administration, France and others blame on Assad.
Damascus denies its forces were behind the attack. The U.S. has said more than 1,400 Syrians died; even conservative estimates from international organizations put the toll at several hundred.
France, a permanent member of the 15-nation Security Council, will start the process at the United Nations on Tuesday under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which is militarily enforceable, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a news conference organized shortly after meeting with the French president.
Fabius said the French resolution would demand that Syria open its chemical weapons program to inspection, place it under international control, and ultimately dismantle it. A violation of that commitment, he said, would carry “very serious consequences.” The resolution would condemn the attack and bring those responsible to justice, he said.