Thrust back into a central role in resolving the Syrian conflict, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council met on Tuesday to negotiate a draft resolution that would hold Syria to its pledge of identifying all chemical weapons under government control for destruction, but diplomats said major differences over a draft quickly emerged.
The diplomats, who declined to be identified, said Russia, Syria's most important ally, was resisting components of the draft, composed by the three Western permanent members -- Britain, France and the United States -- that discuss the threat of force to ensure Syrian compliance, whether to condemn the Syrian government for chemical weapons use, and whether suspected users should be referred to the International Criminal Court for war crimes prosecutions.
The discussions are unlikely to produce a quick resolution, the diplomats said, and it is unclear when a draft will be ready for a vote.
Renewed momentum for Security Council action got a boost from a framework agreement reached on Saturday between the United States and Russia under which the council would review Syria's compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, which the country officially agreed to join that same day.
Under the framework agreement, the Syrians are expected to submit by Saturday a "comprehensive listing" of all their chemical weapons supplies and facilities as a first step, with the goal of identifying and destroying the munitions by the middle of 2014. The agreement also specified that the Security Council should review Syrian compliance with the rules of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based group that administers the treaty.
Representatives of the council's permanent members met a day after a United Nations panel of weapons inspectors confirmed that a devastating chemical weapons attack had been carried out near Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Aug. 21. Their report, the first independent on-the-ground inquest into that attack, did not ascribe blame. But nonproliferation experts said the litany of specific evidence presented appeared to implicate the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government has said insurgents carried out the attack, in which hundreds of civilians were killed by exposure to sarin, a chemical nerve agent. Russia has supported the Syrian government's assertion, arguing that it is illogical that Syrian forces could have been responsible.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who called the report a chilling document that described a war crime, declined at a United Nations news conference on Tuesday to ascribe responsibility for that attack, a position he has consistently held.
But Mr. Ban expressed hope that the Russia-United States agreement reached Saturday, negotiated by Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia and Secretary of State John Kerry, had set in motion a diplomatic process that would overcome the divisions that have deadlocked the Security Council over Syria since the conflict there began 30 months ago.
"What is encouraging is that the two foreign ministers agreed on a framework agreement, how to deal with all these chemical weapons," Mr. Ban said. "I hope that spirit of very friendly negotiations, on the basis of good rapport, will help forge a unity among the Security Council."
He also expressed hope that any Security Council resolution on Syria "can really be an enforceable one."
The Russia-United States agreement specifies that if Syria fails to comply with its obligations under the chemical weapons treaty, the Security Council should impose measures under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which allows for coercive steps, including the use of military force.
But differing interpretations of that passage have emerged among the permanent members of the Security Council over the past few days.
Diplomats said Russia wanted Chapter 7 mentioned as one of the options available to the council at a future date -- opening the possibility that a further resolution would be needed if Syrian noncompliance became an issue. Britain, France and the United States, on the other hand, want the resolution language to convey the threat of Chapter 7 action immediately, in keeping with their publicly stated position that Syria cannot delay or dodge its obligations.
France and the United States have also said they reserve the right to punish Syria militarily, a position criticized by Russia as illegal under the United Nations Charter.
The differing views were reflected earlier Tuesday in a Moscow meeting between Mr. Lavrov and France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius. News agencies quoted Mr. Lavrov as saying the agreement with the United States had made clear that if Syria is noncompliant, "then the Security Council will examine the situation."
Mr. Lavrov also disputed the conclusions drawn by his Western colleagues from the chemical weapons report. While Mr. Fabius said at a news conference that the report "exposes the regime," Mr. Lavrov said his government had "serious reason to suggest that this was a provocation" carried out by insurgents seeking Mr. Assad's demise.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.