Dear ER, "minta maaf" for my "long" leave of absence, much has flowed under the world political bridge. SO following up on my earlier post, it looks like the feared strike on SYRIA is not "imminent" after all as prefaced by my first take on the subject!
Before Syria vote at U.N., tense talks for Kerry and Russian counterpart
UNITED NATIONS — Despite a week of daily negotiations between the United States and Russia over the planned destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, the two sides were still deeply split on a fundamental point when Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met last Tuesday.
The scheduled 45-minute session Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly took place in a tiny Russian meeting room at the United Nations, with an enormous portrait of President Vladimir Putin on the wall. It ran for about 90 minutes, with Kerry and Lavrov, flanked by their U.N. ambassadors and other aides, making pencil edits to a four-page draft that represents a major departure in each country’s approach to the Syrian civil war.
Russia wanted more lax ways to make sure that ally and arms client Syria complied with the agreement to give up its toxic stores; the United States wanted a toughly-worded U.N. Security Council resolution that spelled out what Syria had to do and the consequences Damascus would face for reneging.
The resolution approved unanimously by the 15-member Security Council three days later split the difference, but not before some drama that included a tense, 11 p.m. telephone call between Kerry and Lavrov.
“That was a tough conversation,” a senior State Department official said Saturday, with Kerry suggesting that their mutual goal of getting the agreement completed during the General Assembly was in peril. Several U.S. officials and other diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity provided a look at the makings of the deal, because much of the discussion with Russian officials was confidential.
The Russian position leading up to the General Assembly meeting had stressed a lesser role for the Security Council, which the U.S. side saw as a way to water down a historic agreement to rid Syria of toxic weapons. Russia preferred to leave most responsibility for reporting on Syrian progress or the lack of it to the U.N.-affiliated Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has no real enforcement power.
“Their approach initially was, ‘Syria voluntarily does this,’ and our whole frame was, ‘Are you kidding? This regime just gassed more than 400 children,’ ” Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Saturday.
The United States and Russia, which back opposing sides in the conflict, had reached an agreement in principle earlier this month in Geneva to put Syria’s chemical weapons stores under international control. That agreement averted imminent U.S. cruise missile strikes on Syria in protest over the poison gas massacre of more than 1,000 people on Aug. 21. Syria agreed to give up its weapons under heavy pressure from Russia.
A Security Council vote endorsing the program would be the first firm action at the world body since the Syrian war began. All previous attempts to punish or condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were blocked by Russia, which, like the United States, holds a veto.