by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Members of the UN Security Council on Friday hailed diplomacy and their own unity in unanimously approving a resolution to eliminate chemical weapons from Syria.
"I commend the members of the Council," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the first speaker after the vote, expressing gratitude to Russia and the United States for putting together the resolution during an intensive two-week diplomacy. "Today's historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time."
"Today's resolution will ensure that the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons program happens as soon as possible. In Syria, the inspectors -- who are scientists and technical experts -- will have to contend with the realities of the continuing conflict," Ban said, in a clear reference to the danger they face from both sides.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was positive about Syria's compliance with the resolution, saying, "An important precondition for the success of the upcoming work is Damascus's shown readiness for real cooperation by joining the CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention).
"Syria has already started the implementation of its commitments by providing the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) with a detailed list of its chemical arsenal holdings."
Lavrov added that conforming to the resolution was not only up to Damascus, as the international inspectors also "will have to enjoy the cooperation of the Syrian opposition."
Russia has long said it has proof the opposition carried out chemical attacks and has offered it to inspectors.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, "The United Nations Security Council has demonstrated that diplomacy can be so powerful it can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war.
"We are declaring together for the first time that the use of chemical weapons which the world long ago determined to be beyond the bounds of human behavior are also a threat to international peace and security anywhere they might be used, anytime they might be used, under any circumstances."
"Together the world with a single voice for the first time is imposing binding obligations on the (Syrian President Bashar) Assad regime, requiring it to give up weapons that have been used with devastating effect as tools of terror," he added.
However, neither the 15-page resolution nor the UN inspectors' report on the Aug. 21 attack in Ghouta, Syria, where hundreds were killed by chemical weapons, said who they perceived to be responsible.
"Tonight, in the midst of the Syrian crisis, the Security Council can finally live up to its name," said Laurent Fabius, foreign minister of France, which allied with the U.S. threat of military attack against Syria.
"The credible threat of strikes led to a dramatic change of positions," Fabius said. "We put pressure on the regime and its allies. Until recently, they were still denying the very existence of chemical weapons. In a few days, they (Syria) had to radically change their stance: they acknowledged the existence of chemical weapons and accepted their destruction."
He said the resolution met the three demands France had; a determination the use of chemical weapons was "a threat to international peace and security;" that "those responsible for such crimes must be held accountable," and "that in case of non-compliance, by the Syrian regime, with its obligations, the Security Council will take action under Chapter VII of the (UN) Charter."
The resolution itself did not cite Chapter VII, which allows force to be used, but threatens consequences if Syria doesn't cooperate with OPCW inspectors and give them "unfettered" access.
But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi did not approve of the threat of force.
"China opposes the use of force in international relations," Wang said. "We believe that military means cannot solve the Syrian issue. Rather it will bring greater turmoil and disaster."
He said Beijing was "heartened" to see the Syrian situation "back to the track of peace from the verge of war and presenting a new opportunity for seeking political settlement of the Syrian issue."
Wang recalled, "China suffered deeply from the use of chemical weapons by Japanese invaders during the Second World War. We are formerly opposed to the use of chemical weapons by any country, any group or any individual. Whoever uses chemical weapons should be condemned by all."
Citing the Ghouta attack as "horrific in its nature and its scale" and noting that the secretary-general described it as a war crime, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, "It is welcome that the Security Council has recognized the appalling nature of the act and has come together to agree a serious and far-reaching response."
"We have done so today in adopting the first Security Council resolution on Syria in 17 months," he said.
Resolution 2118 was sponsored by all 15 council members and as such "ended up as a 'President's text'-- meaning all 15 UNSC (UN Security Council) members co-sponsored," Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant of Britain, who did not speak in the council, said in a text message to reporters. "That doesn't happen often."