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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
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