News / Middle East

Top US, Russian Diplomats to Discuss Syria

Top US, Russian Diplomats to Discuss Syriai
X
September 11, 2013 6:24 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Thursday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, to discuss a new initiative that could end the threat of U.S. airstrikes against Syria. This after a casual comment by the secretary about Syria’s chemical weapons led Mr. Lavrov to go public with an idea the U.S. and Russia had talked about privately. But experts question whether this is a real breakthrough, or if Syria and its ally Russia will use diplomacy to divert attention from the alleged large-scale chemical weapons attack last month. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Al Pessin
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Thursday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, to discuss a new initiative that could end the threat of U.S. airstrikes against Syria.  This after a casual comment by the secretary about Syria’s chemical weapons led Lavrov to go public with an idea the U.S. and Russia had talked about privately.  But experts question whether this is a real breakthrough, or if Syria and its ally Russia will use diplomacy to divert attention from the alleged large-scale chemical weapons attack last month.

It was at a news conference Monday in London when a reporter asked Secretary Kerry whether there was anything Syria could do to avoid an attack.

“Sure, he can turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week," he said. "Turn it over, all of it.”

But the secretary immediately made clear he was speaking theoretically and did not expect anything like that to happen.

“But he is not about to do it," he said. "And it can not be done, obviously.”

Or can it?  The Russian foreign minister saw an opportunity in the secretary’s remark, welcoming it at a Moscow news conference.  His Syrian counterpart said Damascus might go along.

"I am authorized to confirm our support for the Russian initiative concerning the chemical weapons in Syria,” said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem.

It was a startling 24 hours.  But were the Syrians and Russians truly embracing the plan, or are they stalling for time?

International security expert Joanna Kidd, of London’s King’s College, says Syria relies on its chemical weapons as a pillar of its defense, and it would be reluctant to truly give them up.  

“It is a job that would take several months to do," she said. "And of course, one should not forget that obviously there is a civil war going on in Syria that would greatly complicate the process.”

That war has been raging for two-and-a-half years.  But it was the alleged chemical weapons attack last month, which the United States says it can prove was ordered by senior Syrian officials, that led to President Barack Obama’s threat to launch airstrikes, and now the Russian and Syrian effort to avoid them.

Paul Schulte, a London-based chemical weapons analyst of the Carnegie Endowment, says a chemical attack should result in a strong international response, and he’s not sure if the Russian approach will suffice.
 
“The Russian plan, which might be a wild card or might be a game-changer, is still very unclear, and there is a lot of skepticism about whether it could ever work,” he said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, in The Hague, could provide inspectors to verify new controls on Syria’s chemical weapons.  But there may not be enough of them, and they may not be willing to work in the middle of a civil war.

It could take months to negotiate the details, while the civil war rages on, and the potential for U.S. airstrikes looms.  But as long as Russia is championing Syria’s new talk of joining the global ban on chemical weapons, the Damascus government may find it difficult to use them again.

You May Like

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dr. Malek Towghi from: Michigan, USA
September 11, 2013 5:36 PM
Shame on Russia and China for protecting and supporting the worst criminals of the 21st century, i.e. Bashar Assad & Co. -- and Pakistan (with reference to the Chinese protection of that rogue country too.) Putin wants return of the Cold War; let us let him have it --- and (we) act accordingly, the Ronald Reagan way. Let us stop being blackmailed by China; let us stop sending hard cash for the Chinese junk. Let us stop Chinese imports.

Has the the White House read "Chemical Disarmament Hard Even in Peacetime" by Broad & Chivers in today's NYT? Let us stop being duped by Putin and Assad.

It is OK if the public opinion in the US and UK does not allow us to do what Obama and Cameron want to do; but, let us not openly betray the oppressed Syrians and demoralize the Syrian Opposition by singing songs for the Russians for their "deceptively attractive " proposal concerning chemical weapons.

Let us, the US & Allies, give all that the heroic Syrians need to overthrow the Russian-supported Assad regime -- including weapons to destroy Bashar Assad's air force.

If we give the Free Syrian Army all it wants and needs, after its victory the so-called Islamists can not come to power in Syria. If they do why not have the kind of relations with the Islamists Carter and Reagan had and use them against Russia for the Muslim cause within the Russian Empire -- the way we used them in Afghanistan against Russia? Let us give Putin what he wants: a robust revival of the Cold War.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
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 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 Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
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 S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
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 Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. 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.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs