News / Middle East

Kerry, Lavrov Begin Crucial Syria Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov kicked off talks late Thursday in Geneva to get Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal.
Speaking before the evening meeting, Kerry said he hopes diplomacy can avoid a possible U.S. strike on Syria for the alleged role of Syrian government forces in a chemical weapons attack last month outside Damascus.
“We cannot allow that to happen again,” Kerry said, repeating U.S. allegations that the Syrian regime orchestrated the attack.
“Expectations are high,” Kerry said of the talks. “This is not a game.”
Kerry said that while the U.S. and Russia disagree on who was at fault “there is much we agree on” including that civilians died in the attack and that chemical weapons are a threat in the Syria conflict.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) give a press conference in Geneva following their meeting on Syria's chemical weapons, Sept. 12, 2013.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) give a press conference in Geneva following their meeting on Syria's chemical weapons, Sept. 12, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) give a press conference in Geneva following their meeting on Syria's chemical weapons, Sept. 12, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) give a press conference in Geneva following their meeting on Syria's chemical weapons, Sept. 12, 2013.
“I welcome the Russian delegation,” he said, adding that the U.S. has brought chemical weapons experts along with its entourage. Still, Kerry added it’s too soon to tell if diplomacy will work but that the U.S. is serious in its efforts.
Officials traveling with Kerry said he will emphasize with Sergei Lavrov in Geneva a U.S. demand for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to quickly account for all of his chemical stockpiles. U.S. officials said the meetings could last several days.

A senior State Department official says Kerry and Lavrov spoke by phone before traveling to Geneva to discuss their shared objective of identifying, verifying and ultimately destroying Syria's chemical weapons.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview aired on Russian TV Thursday that he will allow the handover of Syria's chemical weapons to international control.

U.S. officials have said the Russian proposal for securing and destroying the Syrian weapons is possible but "difficult and complicated."

Lavrov said he is "certain there is a chance for peace" in Syria. He made the comment in Kazakhstan before departing for Geneva.

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-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 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 effect 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.
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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 Bashar al-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," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "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."

Kerry will also meet Thursday with U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

Envoys from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- are discussing a possible resolution for 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.

"The secretary-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, the chief of the rebel Free Syrian Army 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," Ratner 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."
Ratner said 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.

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Comment Sorting
by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
September 12, 2013 5:42 PM
This is not a game, we cant allow this to happen, skeptical etc. this is all coming from Kerry, our sec. of state. He is our top diplomat. Waht s the matter with our diplomacy? Cant speak in some simple language? Why not go into a discussion with some optimism? Where do our diplomats learn their skils? Seems very pathetic that our leaders lack common sense. In contrast, the Russian sec. Of state comes off as one who is wise. John Kerry is a disaster and I hope he does not mess it up. When we go to a discussion or negotiation, first rule 101 is dont undermine the purpose or the party. If we want others to respect us, shouldn't we be showing respect also? Our politicians are turning out to be a joke in the international arena.

by: Andor from: USA
September 12, 2013 5:26 PM
"n 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-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."
CIA , probably, couldn't find the black cat in the dark room, and delivered weapons to Al Nusra, the "other" friends.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 12, 2013 2:12 PM
It's all a waste of time. The only revelation of it is that Russia is taking over from Britain in the ability to maneuver and manipulate diplomacy. Good riddance. Welcome to Russia. Is the West about to lose the game to the East? What lesson is there for Iran and North Korea to learn? Simply put, use whatever you have in your arsenal, the ultimate will be resolved on the floors of the UN. At worst, a regime of sanctions will be clamped. What and how much have sanctions achieved in the past? Not much, except Russia is not willing to play, or it wants to show good-boy face at diplomacy.

by: ali baba from: new york
September 12, 2013 1:26 PM
there are many conflict in the world .war crime is existed in Sudan, Somali. Uganda ,Asia and Latin America. . million killed in Sudan. million killed in several country . should Us send troops to each country that war crime occurred .the answer is no because we are not the police of the world. Syria is no difference than Sudan. we are supporting radical Islam agenda because they have a lobby and made .a pretext to get Us be in the middle of fanatic. Are we going to let our people die for the sake of radical Islam? could Obama answer that question for me?

by: michael lueras from: Los Angeles
September 12, 2013 12:13 PM
it obvious that nothing can come out of this "syrian crisis" but WW3 - Obama is talking peace and preparing for war - the supreme hypocrisy - he is like teddy roosevelt: talk softly and carry a big stick with which to bash anyone who does not agree - obama is thomas jefferson with a black skin - a slavebreaker and warmonger with an african name amen? - it is the "skepticism" about russian/syrian proposals for peace that will prevent such proposals from becoming reality and their failure will be the pretext for another disastrous war in the lineage of vietnam/iraq/afghanistan - this talk between lavrov and putin is a stalling tactic by the u.s.a.

in order to get to the "syrian rebels" the weapons that they need in order to attack the legal legitimate government of Syria in coordination with a aerial bombing attack on Syria for the purpose of creating the chaos and strife and iniquity that was foretold by Jesus - it is the u.s.a. and its european allies that will make diplomacy impossible by assisting those rebels in Syria who are committing violence there right at this very moment - obama is doing precisely what his predecessor Bush did to get us involved in Afghanistan/Iraq but this time it WILL TRULY be the war which will end all wars because it will be the war which will put an end to "all mankind" and thereby its ability to wage war (or peace) as Allah said in the Quran: "I can easily destroy all mankind and replace it with an new and improved race." - Obama and McCain are assisting Allah in doing what Allah said that He can do amen? - they should be commended for their service to Allah - and if "all mankind" is indeed wiped of the face of the Earth and replaced with a race dedicated to peace and freedom and justice for all then the pain of WW3 will have been worth it amen?

by: db ben from: usa
September 12, 2013 11:29 AM
i think it is appauling that we assist in any way shape and form, the muslim brotherhood. they are an infection spreading across the arab world and are using democracy for their selfish reasons. we should not forget that its the muslim brotherhood that hangs thier homosexual kids in public, kill young girls that want to become scholars, and rape their sister in laws then would stoned them to death or pour acid on their faces. why in the hell are we calling assad a tryant when he is protecting many many families with children from the muslim brothers of the hood, and why are we helping the rebels that we will one day have to fight? we are already fighting their cousins, ie the al-quada's and talibans.
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
September 12, 2013 1:28 PM
I agree

by: Just The FACTS from: Washinton D.C.
September 12, 2013 11:20 AM
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told CNN on Sunday that the administration simply does not have “irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence” to show Mr. Assad ordered the attack. Instead, Mr. McDonough said the administration relied on the “common-sense test” to more broadly pin the attacks on the “Assad regime.” Mr. McDonough also suggested the administration was disinterested in the skepticism that such remarks might be triggering. “This is not a court of law,” he said. “And intelligence does not work that way.”

In addressing the nation from the White House Tuesday night, Mr. Obama reiterated a claim that other senior administration officials such as Mr. Kerry have made. “We know the Assad regime was responsible,” Mr. Obama said. The president used careful language to convey the roots of that conviction. “In the days leading up to Aug. 21, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area they where they mix sarin gas,” he said. “They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.”

Mr. Obama’s remarks were a shade broader than the initial case that he and others laid out two weeks ago when the White House circulated an unclassified version of a report that it had titled the “U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons.”

by: John Kerry from: White House
September 12, 2013 11:16 AM
U.S. intelligence has yet to uncover evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad directly ordered the chemical attacks last month on civilians in a suburb of Damascus, though the consensus inside U.S. agencies and Congress is that members of Mr. Assad’s inner circle likely gave the command, officials tell The Washington Times. The gap in the intelligence has raised debate in some corners of the wider intelligence community about whether Mr. Assad has full control of his war-weary Army and their arsenal of chemical missiles, which most likely would be treasured by terrorist groups known to be operating in Syria, said officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing intelligence matters.

“If there was a rogue general that did it on his own accord, that would be a bigger problem for Assad, because that would imply that he does not have control of his own weapons,” said one senior congressional source familiar with U.S. intelligence assessments on Syria. Apart from concerns about weapons falling into the hands of such Sunni extremist and al Qaeda-linked groups as the al-Nusra Front, there are also concerns about serious hurdles now likely to lie ahead for the international community trying to assemble a special team to work with Mr. Assad on securing his chemical arsenal.

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