News / Middle East

Syrian Crisis to Dominate G20 Summit

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama has arrived in Russia for a meeting of world leaders that is expected to be overshadowed by debate over possible U.S. military strikes in Syria.
 
The Syrian crisis is not on the official agenda for the two-day Group of 20 global economic summit in Saint Petersburg, but leaders are expected to discuss it on the sidelines.
 
Obama is seeking broader support, both at home and abroad, for military strikes against Syria's government for allegedly using chemical weapons on its civilians.
 
A day before the G20 summit, a key U.S. Senate panel approved a plan that would call for limited strikes but rules out the use of ground troops.   The measure will go to the full Senate next week, and must pass there, as well as in the House of Representatives, where it could meet stiff resistance from Republican Party lawmakers.
 
Wednesday's 10-7 Senate Foreign Relations committee vote came as Obama's top foreign policy and defense advisers testified for a second day in Congress, trying to persuade doubtful lawmakers to approve the president's plan for a strike against Syria's military capabilities.
 
Secretary of State John Kerry spent much of the afternoon speaking to a House of Representatives committee.
 
"As we debate, the world is watching and the world is wondering, not whether Assad's regime actually did this," Kerry said.  "The world is wondering whether the United States of America is going to consent through silence to stand aside while this kind of brutality is allowed to happen without consequence."
 

Obama argues for military action

In Sweden Wednesday, President Obama said a failure to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Damascus would only increase the chance they would be used again.

President Obama said the world had long ago determined that using chemical weapons could not be tolerated. Thus, he said, his own credibility is not at stake if there is no action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.   

“The international community's credibility is on the line,'' he said. “And America and Congress' credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.”

The president acknowledged that many Europeans are hesitant to act militarily against Syria because of the incorrect allegations of chemical weapons that led to the war in Iraq.

“I’m not interested in repeating mistakes of us basing decisions on faulty intelligence, but having done a thorough evaluation of the information that is currently available, I can say with high confidence chemical weapons were used,” he said.

Obama has said he is convinced that President Assad's government used chemical weapons on civilians in the attack on August 21, which killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus.  

Syria denies using chemical weapons, alleging it was the rebels who deployed them.

Russia, China issue warnings

Russia, Syria's main supplier of arms, and China have already vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhu Guangyao said Thursday any military action against Syria would cause a hike in oil prices and have a "negative impact" on the global economy.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Western strikes without U.N. Security Council approval would be an unacceptable "aggression." But he said he would support a strike if there were "convincing" proof that Damascus used chemical weapons.

"Only the U.N. Security Council could sanction the use of force against a sovereign state," Putin told the Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television network. "Any other pretext or method which might be used to justify the use of force against an independent sovereign state is inadmissible and can only be interpreted as an aggression."

Putin urged the U.S. to present "convincing" evidence about chemical weapons to the United Nations.

He said Russia has suspended the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missile components to Syria, but would reconsider if steps are taken that "violate international norms."

UN hopes for political solution

Even as the U.S. pushes for possible strikes, U.N. officials continue to look for a political settlement to the conflict.

Officials say U.N.-Arab League envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is headed to St. Petersburg to help U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon organize a Syrian peace conference.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said any use of chemical weapons in Syria is an “outrageous war crime,” and he called on the Security Council to “unite and develop an appropriate response” to bring the perpetrators to justice.

However, he said a political solution to the crisis in accordance with the U.N. Charter is the best way to proceed.

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin, center foreground, gestures as he walks by U.S. President Barack Obama, front row second right, as he takes his place at a group photo outside of the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama, right, walks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to a group photo of G-20 leaders outside of the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013. 
  • An image of U.S. President Barack Obama drinking out of a paper cup is shown on a large screen in the media center of a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013. 
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a media conference after a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) arrives for the family picture event during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 6, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama walks away after shaking hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during arrivals for the G20 Summit at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • A man protests possible military action in Syria as the first day of the G20 Summit gets underway in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • BRICS leaders' at the G20 Summit in Strelna near St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • Participants sit at a table during a BRICS leaders' meeting at the G20 Summit in Strelna near St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • Apples are seen on the ground next to statues across the street from the Constantine Palace, the venue for a G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Sept. 4, 2013.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs