Calling the framework agreement between the U.S. and Russia on the elimination of Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons by mid-2014 “a significant step forward”, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that he will be holding talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, “to discuss the way forward, including action at the United Nations Security Council”.

He said, “The onus is now on the Assad regime to comply with this agreement in full. The international community, including Russia, must hold the regime to account.

It was at a joint press conference in London with Mr. Hague that Mr. Kerry let slip the comment — in response to a journalist’s question on what Syria could do to avoid being attacked — that the West would hold off if the regime surrendered its chemical arsenal in a week’s time. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, seized on the statement to deflect the looming threat of armed intervention.

France, which was the one country that offered to join forces with the U.S. in armed action against Syria, has welcomed the agreement. Mr. Fabius called it an “important advance”.

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