World News

    Kerry, Lavrov Outline Steps Syria Must Take

    The United States and Russia have agreed on a framework for ending Syria's chemical weapons program that includes a requirement for Syria to submit a comprehensive list of such weapons in one week.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the plan during a joint news conference in Geneva Saturday, with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.



    "We have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons possessed by the Assad regime and we are committed to the rapid assumption of control by the international community of those weapons."



    Kerry said they agreed that Syria must provide the immediate right to inspect all such weapons sites, which he says will lead to the destruction of the weapons outside of Syria.

    The plan calls for the elimination or removal of all chemical weapons material and equipment by mid-2014.

    If the plan is successful, Kerry said it could have far-reaching consequences.



    "If we can join together and make this framework a success, and eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, we would not only save lives but we would reduce the threat to the region and reinforce an international standard, an international norm."



    Kerry said if Syria does not comply with the plan, they could request a U.N. Security Council "Chapter 7" resolution, which authorizes punitive action.

    Lavrov said the deal does not include anything about potential use of force.

    There was no immediate reaction from Syria.

    The agreement on the proposal followed three days of talks between the top diplomats and U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

    During the talks, U.S. and Russian officials agreed that Syria currently holds about 1,000 metric tons of chemical agents and precursors including sulfur mustard and sarin gas.

    U.S. officials believe there are about 45 sites where those munitions and related equipment is stored but say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime may have moved some of those supplies.

    Syrian compliance with the agreement could avert a U.S. military strike in retaliation for the Syrian government's alleged poison gas attack on civilians last month near Damascus.

    U.S. President Barack Obama says the international community expects the Syrian government to "live up to its commitments." In a Saturday statement, the president said "if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act."

    The United States says it has confirmed that more than 1,400 people died in the attack, and that there is no doubt the Syrian military was responsible. The Assad government contends rebels carried out the gas attack.



    France and Britain welcomed the deal.

    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called it a "significant step forward." France and the United States have been the main advocates of military strikes against Syria for the alleged chemical weapons attack.

    In a Saturday statement, Fabius said he, Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague would discuss details of the plan during talks in Paris on Monday.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the plan and said he hoped it would lead to efforts to end the "appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people."

    Germany offered a more cautious response. The French News Agency says Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said if "words are followed by actions," then chances for a political solution in Syria will increase.

    However, General Selim Idriss of the opposition Free Syrian Army said the group rejects the plan.



    " We don't recognize the Russian initiative and we think the Russians and the Syrian regime are playing games to waste time and to win time for the criminal regime in Damascus."



    He said the group would continue its fight against Mr. Assad's government.

    Syria said Thursday it will join an international ban on chemical weapons, but says it will take a month to list all of its chemical weapons stockpile. Until this week, Syria had repeatedly denied possessing any chemical weapons.

    President Assad has said he will only transfer his chemical weapons arsenal to international control if the U.S. drops its threat of military action against him.

    Kerry will travel to Israel Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then to Paris for talks Monday with the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Saudi Arabia.

    ##

    (two Kerry cuts)

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora