UNITED NATIONS - The five permanent members of the often-divided U.N. Security Council reached agreement Thursday on a resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, British and U.S. diplomats said, and the council was meeting to discuss it Thursday night.
The agreement by the permanent members, whose differences have paralyzed council action on Syria, represents a major breakthrough in addressing the 2 1/2-year conflict, which has killed more than 100,000 people.
Britain's U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, tweeted that Britain, France, the U.S., Russia and China had agreed on a "binding and enforceable draft ... resolution."
He said Britain will introduce the text to the 10 other members of the Security Council at a meeting Thursday night.
The U.S. and Russia had been at odds on how to enforce the resolution, but Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power confirmed that the last hurdles to agreement had been overcome.
On Twitter, Power said the draft resolution establishes that Syria's chemical weapons "is threat to international peace & security & creates a new norm against the use of CW."
U.N. diplomats said it would be the first legally binding resolution on Syria in the conflict if adopted, which now appears virtually certain.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in hastily scheduled, closed-door talks Thursday afternoon at the United Nations, and the agreement was announced soon afterward.
The agreement came a day after Russia's deputy foreign minister said negotiators had overcome a major hurdle and agreed that the resolution would include a reference to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows for military and nonmilitary actions to promote peace and security.
In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov offered to provide troops to guard facilities where Syria's chemical weapons would be destroyed.
The P-5 have been discussing for weeks what to include in a new resolution requiring that Syria's chemical weapons be secured and dismantled. The U.S. and Russia had been at odds on how to enforce the resolution.
The flurry of diplomatic activity is in response to an Aug. 21 poison gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in a Damascus suburb, and President Barack Obama's threat of U.S. strikes in retaliation.
After Kerry said Syrian President Bashar Assad could avert U.S. military action by turning over "every single bit of his chemical weapons" to international control within a week, Russia, Syria's most important ally, agreed. Kerry and Lavrov signed an agreement in Geneva on Sept. 13.
Assad's government quickly accepted the broad proposal, but there have been tough negotiations on how its stockpile will be destroyed.