United Nations Security Council endorses Syria chemical weapons resolution without dissent
China welcomes passage of resolution on chemical weapons, which does not threaten use of force if President Assad fails to comply with it
The diplomatic drive to purge Syria of its chemical weapons accelerated as the full 15-member UN Security Council approved a breakthrough resolution to ensure Syrian compliance.
At the same time, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced long-sought peace talks are tentatively planned for November.
The Security Council resolution is a compromise measure finalised on Thursday night by the five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. It is aimed at coercing the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad to comply with a pledge to relinquish its chemical weapons.
Although the resolution does not automatically threaten the use of force if Syria reneges - a Western concession granted to Russia - the measure nonetheless represents the Security Council's most significant action to date on the Syria conflict. Approval by all 15 members came swiftly. China welcomed the UN resolution.
"China welcomes the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' decision and the United Nations Security Council's resolution on Syrian chemical weapons," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
Divisions over the war remained clear, however, in comments by the Russian and US foreign ministers.
"Should the regime fail to act, there will be consequences," US Secretary of State John Kerry warned the 15-member council after the vote sealing a US-Russian agreement.
Kerry also hailed the resolution. "The Security Council has shown that when we put aside politics for the common good, we are still capable of doing big things," he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that there were no automatic punitive measures and that the resolution applied equally to the Syrian opposition.
He said the council would take "actions which are commensurate with the violations, which will have to be proven 100 per cent".
Lavrov, whose country has long supported Assad, also suggested in his speech that Western countries opposed to Assad because of his repression of the democratic opposition were increasingly coming around to Russia's view that the greater danger in Syria lay in its growing attraction to jihadists.
Human Rights Watch, however, was not impressed with the deal. "This resolution fails to ensure justice for the gassing of hundreds of children and many other grave crimes," said its UN director, Philippe Bolopion.
Efforts to destroy Syria's chemical weapons "do not address the reality that conventional weapons have killed the overwhelming majority of the estimated 100,000 people who have died in the conflict", Bolopion said.
Diplomats have been careful to point out that the Security Council resolution on chemical weapons does not necessarily portend progress in ending the overall Syrian conflict.
Efforts by Lavrov, Kerry and the UN special envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, to arrange a peace conference in Geneva, known in diplomatic shorthand as Geneva 2, have foundered for months, with a date yet to be set. But both Lavrov and the UN secretary general said on Friday night that they hoped a conference could convene by mid-November.
Russia and the United States have differed over participation by Iran, which has close ties to the Syrian government.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse