The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution Friday ordering the eradication of Syria's chemical weapons. The Security Council passed the decision unanimously -- with 15 votes in favor.
Secretary of State John Kerry touted the resolution that would move Syria’s chemical weapons into the hands of the international community, where they would subsequently be destroyed.
"The United Nations Security Council has demonstrated that diplomacy can be so powerful it can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war," Kerry said following the vote.
The Security Council decision came after weeks of talks between Russia and the United States triggered by an Aug. 21 sarin nerve gas attack in Syria that killed hundreds.
Washington blamed the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack. The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, blamed anti-government rebels for the attack.
Assad agreed to destroy Syria's chemical weapons following international indignation.
According to the resolution, Kerry said on-site inspections of Syria's chemical arms will begin by November. The weapons will be removed and destroyed by mid-2014, he added.
“Syria cannot select or reject the inspectors. Syria must give those inspectors unfettered access to any and all sites and any and all people," Kerry said, adding that the Security Council resolution was legally binding and could be enforced.
"Should the regime fail to act, there will be consequences," he said.
Friday's vote also endorsed an earlier communique adopted in an international conference in Geneva in June 2012, which called for a transfer of power to a transitional governing body, paving a way for democratic elections and a government that can be chosen by the Syrian people.
President Barack Obama had earlier called the draft U.N. resolution a "potentially huge victory for the international community."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the Security Council's vote, adding that the U.N. mission had returned to Syria this week to complete its investigations into other chemical weapons attacks.
"Today's resolution will ensure that the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons program happens as soon as possible and with the utmost transparency and accountability," Ban said.
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said the resolution covers most of Damascus' concerns, adding that countries supporting Syria's rebels --Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and the United States -- should also abide by the resolution.
The ambassador added that the Syrian government was "fully committed" to attend a proposed November peace conference in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's civil war.
Earlier Friday, the 41-member Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Executive Council approved a plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, enabling the Security Council vote.
"White smoke in the Hague," British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant announced on his Twitter feed.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., criticized the resolution, calling it "another triumph of hope over reality."
"It contains no meaningful or immediate enforcement mechanisms, let alone a threat of the use of force for the Assad regime's non-compliance. The whole question of enforcement has been deferred," their statement read.
It continued: "In the weeks and months ahead, Assad and his forces will continue their war on the Syrian people. They will continue to use every weapon in their arsenal short of chemical weapons. They will continue to slaughter tens of thousands of Syrian men, women, and children."
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published September 27 2013, 7:32 PM