News / Middle East

    NATO, Russia Moving Ahead with Talks on Syria Chemical Arms

    American ship MV Cape Ray - on an unprecedented mission to collect and destroy highly toxic chemicals that form part of Syria’s chemical weapons program - is docked at Naval Station in Rota, Spain, Feb. 13, 2014.
    American ship MV Cape Ray - on an unprecedented mission to collect and destroy highly toxic chemicals that form part of Syria’s chemical weapons program - is docked at Naval Station in Rota, Spain, Feb. 13, 2014.
    Reuters
    Talks between NATO and Russia on a possible joint mission to protect a U.S. ship that will destroy Syria's deadliest chemical weapons are moving ahead despite tensions over Ukraine, a top U.S. commander said on Thursday.
     
    U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. forces in Europe, said NATO and Russia were discussing a possible joint naval operation in the Mediterranean to protect the U.S. cargo ship Cape Ray due to destroy Syria's toxins.
     
    News of the discussions between NATO and Russia in a joint body called the NATO-Russia Council was first reported by Reuters on February 14.
     
    “We are in negotiations right now in the NATO-Russia Council and those negotiations are moving forward,” Breedlove said in an interview with Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.
     
    He said discussions on what would be a rare example of military cooperation between Russia and NATO had not been affected by any tensions over the Ukraine crisis.
     
    Under a U.S.-Russian deal reached after a chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of people around Damascus last year, President Bashar al-Assad's government should have handed over 1,300 tons of toxic chemicals by Feb. 5 for destruction abroad.
     
    But only a handful of cargoes have been shipped out of the country so far, causing growing international frustration at the slow progress.
     
    U.S. ready now
     
    Syria has agreed a new timetable to remove its chemical weapons by late April, diplomats said on Wednesday.
     
    Breedlove stressed that the United States was ready to carry out the mission to destroy the chemicals immediately.
     
    “We are ready to do this mission today, right now. The Syrians need to deliver these chemicals for destruction and we are ready to destroy them now,” he said.
     
    Under the plan being discussed, NATO and Russian warships would share the task of protecting the Cape Ray, which will process at sea about 500 tons of chemicals that are too dangerous to deal with on land.
     
    The Cape Ray is to pick up the chemicals in Italy and needs an escort for its dangerous cargo in international waters.
     
    Breedlove, who is also NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe but was speaking in his U.S. capacity, said there were various options for escorting the Cape Ray.
     
    The United States could carry out the entire mission by itself or the Cape Ray could be supported by NATO and Russia working together, by NATO or by a coalition of NATO allies not acting under the NATO flag.
     
    Russian participation in the mission would not be merely symbolic, Breedlove said.

    “I think it would be good for our nations to find a path ahead to build bridges,” he said.
     
    He said Russian help would also be appreciated during the operation to destroy the chemicals, which other officials have said will take around 90 days.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    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 ‘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.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora