News / Middle East

US, Russia Clash Over Syria at NATO Meeting

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks behind Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) at the start of a NATO-Russia foreign ministers meeting in Brussels April 23, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks behind Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) at the start of a NATO-Russia foreign ministers meeting in Brussels April 23, 2013.
Al Pessin
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered starkly different views of the Syrian civil war Tuesday, after meeting at NATO headquarters.

The United States wants Russia to convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, but Russia refuses. Secretary Kerry tried to downplay the differences.

“There's a difference of opinion between Russia and the United States with respect to when or how Assad might leave. I don't think there's a difference of opinion that his leaving may either be inevitable or necessary to be able to have a solution,” Kerry said.

But Russia says the shape of a Syrian political settlement must be decided by the Syrians themselves, including President Assad. At a news conference, Foreign Minister Lavrov  accused Western nations of blocking a series of peace efforts, and said if that continues, Syria could come under the control of radical Islamists.

“Over the last months, there is a growing understanding of real threats we will all face if this status quo maintains, if all efforts to build dialogue will be hindered and blocked by the minority of the international community, which is very aggressive and very bloodthirsty,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov said there is a growing feeling among Russia's allies that efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict are failing, and he called on all “international players” to bring the Syrian parties to the negotiating table.

Secretary Kerry said he and Minister Lavrov did agree to keep talking about the issue, and he indicated some new ideas are on the table.

“Foreign Minister Lavrov and I talked about a number of different ways in which one might try to figure out if you could create a reality to this diplomatic initiative. And we're both going to go back. We're going to explore those possibilities. And we're going to talk again about if any of those other avenues could conceivably be pursued,” Kerry said.

Those avenues do not include Western military intervention. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday the Syrian war could cause security problems for the region, and beyond. But he said no one is calling for NATO to play any direct role in the crisis.

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by: Xiao Jiang from: New York
April 25, 2013 1:21 AM
Neither side is ideal, but I hate the Iranians and Russians more.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
April 24, 2013 1:38 PM
Assad had been moderate, but with the support of Iran and Hezbollah, no one can say so of him presently. Assad has been seriously backed by Ahmadinejad and Nassaralah in the civil, this completely erases whatever he has going for him as a moderate and a possible hub for peace in the region. The opposition on the other hand is mostly a terrorist group enlisting everything including Hamas, Taliban and al qaida. Yesterday they kidnapped two bishops - a hallmark of terrorism in the region to kidnap especially Christians. Why should anyone lend weight to any of these sides? The solution to the crisis is the only thing that is not on the table presently - foreign military intervention that will ensure a credible election when peace has been restored. Neither the Assad group nor the opposition in their present composition is sure to produce what the world is expecting to emerge of Syria at the end of the imbroglio - a credible democracy to cater for all strata of the Syrian populace. The world has come of age to allow the peace of the region to come from any of these splinter groups, worst of all the Arab League. If the UN will not handle it, then let's leave the people to sort themselves out - their own way. But be rest assured that by the time the people emerge from the Pyrrhic victory, much of the population would be hisotry.

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
April 24, 2013 12:42 AM
Mr. Kerry was just thrown in into a very senior position, he needs to have very good staff, because some of the issues faced, are very difficult, complex and require lots of fundamental research, as to how they can be resolved. I do not know? if he has or not staff, but he needs to come up with ideas that bridge interest gaps between the various nations and sometime contradictory positions/interests. Tough situation.

by: Igor from: Russia
April 23, 2013 11:51 PM
Lavrov is right. To overthrow a government by foreign forces is not very diffilcult but to create a new one which represents the whole Syria is not simple. The opposition is a mixture of extremists actually led by Al-Quaeda. Only a fool would like to replace a rather moderate government with an extreme one full of terrorists.

by: State Dept from: DC, USA
April 23, 2013 8:51 PM
Dr. Hans, I think you are overestimating the size of the pool of diplomatic talent the US can choose from. Kerry is an idiot, but he reflect a distinct incompetent administration.
In Response

by: James Retired USAF from: Florida
April 24, 2013 5:06 AM
I have to agree despite Kerry's Military career, He's Like Copernicus, lacking the powder wig as Bill Maeher put it comical context, He has never had any stage presence, and Diplomacy is really Drama acting on one level while striving for a alternate goal. These current events do not afford any playing around time finding the right guy or woman, Susan Rice, Obama's got get over that, Even a Republican of Dynamic presence and wit(very important) The Russians love to laugh in common with Americans when we argue and the Chinese as well, he so droll you can't tell if he means business or he's swishy washing his way through it, They( Russians and Chinese) want engagement, fresh honest rapport admitting ones own failings, to get a conversation going, Kerry never had that, he as tepid as cold oatmeal, what was Obama thinking?

by: Dr. Hans F. from: Germany
April 23, 2013 4:57 PM
the European consensus in diplomatic circles is that Kerry is a poor diplomatic choice for Obama to have made; Kerry just does not have the intellectual depth to advance the US cause, his loyalties are confused his presentations muddled and he projects an air of incompetent imbecility. Obama should reconsider his choice without delay...

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