News / Middle East

US, Russia in Tough Talks Over Syria's Chemical Weapons

US, Russia in Tough Talks Over Syria Chemical Weaponsi
X
September 13, 2013 12:54 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are in Switzerland for talks on Syria giving up its chemical weapons. A poison gas attack outside Damascus last month brought the threat of U.S. military action against President Bashar al-Assad, whom Washington blames for those deaths. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from Geneva.

Related video by Scott Stearns

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened talks in Geneva Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as international negotiations intensify to get Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal.
 
Kerry said before the first day of talks that he hopes diplomacy can avoid the need for a U.S. military strike on Syria for using chemical weapons against civilians last month.
 
Kerry said while the United States and Russia disagree over who was behind the poison gas attack, there is no question that civilians died and chemical weapons are a threat in the Syrian civil war.
 
Lavrov said he believes the United States wants to reach a consensus with Russia.
 
Officials traveling with Kerry said he will push the U.S. demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad quickly account for all of his chemical stockpiles. U.S. officials said the meetings could last several days.
 
Assad said in an interview aired on Russian TV Thursday that he will allow the handover of Syria's chemical weapons to international control.
 
But Kerry rejected Assad's assertion that he can wait one month between signing the global ban on chemical weapon and turning over details about his weapons to the United Nations.  Assad calls the one-month waiting period "standard." Kerry says there is nothing "standard" about the current situation.
 
U.S. officials have said the Russian proposal for securing and destroying the Syrian weapons is possible but "difficult and complicated."
 
Weapons to rebels
 
In other developments, Obama administration officials told several U.S. news organizations that the Central Intelligence Agency has begun delivering light weapons to moderate Syrian rebels for the first time in Syria's two-and-a-half year conflict.
 
But Free Syrian Army rebel chief Salim Idris appeared to dispute that claim, telling U.S. broadcaster NPR that his fighters have not received "any weapons from our American friends."
 
Russian President Vladimir Putin used an opinion piece in The New York Times newspaper to warn the United States against conducting military strikes against the Assad government, a longtime Russian ally.
 
Putin stressed the need to work through the United Nations and not to conduct unilateral military action in Syria. He said a U.S. military strike "would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism," and could negatively affect efforts to address Iran's nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 
 
Putin also said there is "every reason" to believe opposition fighters were the ones responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria in a bid to draw an outside military response.
 
U.S. President Barack Obama, and other Western leaders, however, blame Syrian forces for the deadly chemical attack last month near Damascus. The U.S. says 1,400 people were killed when Syrian forces used poison gas against civilians.
 
Obama says it was the U.S. military threat that forced the Assad government to negotiate through Russia.  Obama this week cautiously endorsed Russia's diplomatic initiative, but said the U.S. military will be ready to respond if diplomacy fails.
 
U.S. skeptical
 
The U.S. has been openly skeptical about the intentions of Syrian President Assad and his ally Russia.
 
"Well, we certainly have a long and winding history with the Russians, so again, we are not going into this…  We are going into this eyes wide open and the Secretary [of State John Kerry], when he spoke with the foreign minister [of Russia, Sergei Lavrov] just two days ago, made clear we are not going to play games here," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
 
Envoys from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - are discussing a possible draft resolution on securing and dismantling Syria's chemical weapons.
 
Russia has already said it will block any attempt to include the potential use of military force against Syria to ensure it complies with any order.
 
U.N. officials hopeful
 
U.N. officials say they remain hopeful about diplomacy.
 
"[S]ecretary-general [Ban Ki-moon] strongly welcomes the emergence of serious international discussions that could lead to an agreement in the Security Council to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons so as to prevent their use," said U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.
 
Still, Free Syrian Army chief Salim Idris rejected Russia's proposal in a video posted online, saying the international community should not only remove the weapons, but also punish those responsible for using them.
 
Obama says U.S. ships in the Mediterranean region are staying in place to keep pressure on the Syrian government to live up to any agreement on giving up its chemical weapons.
 
The Syrian stockpile is one of the world's largest, and is scattered at sites across the country.
 
Middle East and national security expert Ari Ratner said every chance for a negotiated solution must be taken.
 
"What exactly that negotiated solution looks like remains to be discussed, both within Syria, of course, and also in a broader international community," he said. "But if these past two weeks of build-up to war, which have been quite chaotic in many respects, achieve something, a push towards diplomacy, even if it ultimately fails, it ought to be tried one last time."
 
He added that those opposing force in Syria would be more willing to reconsider military action if they saw that diplomatic efforts were made to resolve the crisis.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Stefan
September 13, 2013 9:20 AM
Russia has successfully postponed any military strike contrary to gross human rights violations by the Syrian army on civillians and Russia took no action then. Contrast their sudden action when the threat of a military strike loomed, they just couldnt do enough to launch into an campaign against such action. Sadly the British parliament did not support David Cameron either and it is doubtful whether the US Congress will ever vote on such action and unlikely they will support President Obama. Whilst the situation drags on, the UN and the ICC at the Hague are still "silent" on war crimes action against the Syrian government and others guilty of such violations.


by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City, NJ
September 13, 2013 4:27 AM
Syria chemical weapons need to be put under control and destroy. Assad has crossed the red line and he must be brought to justice. there is no exception. What we are telling Assad and the world, it is ok to use chemical weapons and nobody punish you. And we are also saying it is ok to turn your back on the general public, regardless what is happen to them. And let their Government slaughter them. The true of the matter is the US military is the world supper power, there is no military on the earth now that can with stand the fire power of the US..

Mr. Putin knows that the American leadership, France, and Britain are very weak, so he uses that as a weapon to prey on them. During the Bush administration we never saw that nonsense. America is the world supper power and we need to demand that respect.


by: Joe Polonium
September 12, 2013 11:12 PM
Russia certainly has alot to account for given the deaths of two persons in the UK in recent years under "mysterious" circumstances and it illustrates what happens to those who offend the Government. The question to be asked is where and how did the Syrians acquire the chemical weapons, was Russia the supplier??? and if so when last did they deliver and were any of they experts involved in the manufacturing setup of chemical weapons.


by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
September 12, 2013 8:41 PM
There is no any doubt that the US military threat forced Assad to negotiate. Just look at the timetable of the Syrian war. All the war long Russia as being ruled by Mr. Putin and Co has patiently been watching thousands civilians die unnecessarily until President Obama awoke them from their doldrums. I personally also skeptical about the intentions of Assad and Russia under the KGB/FSB rule. There is a canon in Russia that “a former KGB man is always a KGB man”. I see a Trojan horse in the “Russian initiative” from the KGB regime. It made me laugh to read how Mr. Putin’s article in The New York Times newspaper taught the world to follow the law. When and where did the KGB observe laws in all its long history? All its activity was, is and will be to circumvent and overcome any law. Just in textbooks one can meet laws in lawless contemporary Russia. What kind of law is observed in Russia where its President has got his unprecedented third term in office (against the Constitution) after rigged and disputed election, where the Parliament of Russia is also elected in widely rigged election, where dozens of articles of the Constitution are indefinitely suspended and basic human rights aren’t observed? What kind of law is observed in Russia with courts of law passing 99% guilty verdicts and tools to silence anybody speaking their mind? What kind of law is observed in Russia with multibillion $ corruption out of control? What kind of law is observed in Russia with dozens upon dozens unsolved murders of outspoken journalists? What kind of international law is observed in Russia’s Chechnya?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid