As the Syrian civil war casts a shadow over today’s G-20 Summit, diplomats around the world struggle to come together on how best to respond to the still-unconfirmed chemical attack of two weeks ago. A US Senate panel has approved a resolution on Syria, while the Vatican and Russia continue to warn against a strike, and the UN speeds up its investigation.
In other diplomatic news, Turkey’s ambassador to Egypt is returning to Cairo, Dennis Rodman is in North Korea again, and President Obama visited Sweden.
Here’s what you should keep an eye on:
A Senate panel has approved a resolution on Syria, an initial draft of which was submitted by the Obama administration this weekend, and revised and presented late Tuesday night.
Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) were responsible for the revision of the resolution, which includes a 60-day limit for Obama to launch a military strike against Syria and allows the administration only one 30-day extension in the event the president determines it necessary to meet the resolution’s goals.
The resolution also attempts to address the fear among members of both parties that an attack would escalate, by prohibiting the use of ground forces in Syria "for the purpose of combat operations." A number of Republicans and Democrats have said that the ban is necessary in maintaining their support.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), however, believes this revision is “too narrowly drawn,” according to the Wall Street Journal, and has said he does not “support a resolution authorizing force against Syria as crafted by leaders of a Senate panel.”
International attitudes toward a possible US military strike on Syria remain divided, with Russia continuing to warn against such an attack, Britain’s paralysis on the matter, the Vatican re-emphasizing opposition to military intervention and calling for a global day of fasting for peace, and a now-expedited UN investigation still underway.
Turkey's ambassador to Egypt will be returning to Cairo after being removed as a result of deteriorating relations between the two countries.
Both Turkey and Egypt withdrew their ambassadors last month, following Turkey’s criticism of the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, whom Turkey’s “Islamic-rooted ruling party had strongly backed,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
For Egypt’s part in re-establishing working relations, however, leaders said its top diplomat would not return to Ankara until “Egypt feels that Turkey has stopped interfering in its internal affairs.”
"The decision to withdraw the Turkish ambassador was a Turkish decision, just like his return is their business. The Egyptian position remains as it is," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Attie told reporters.
Still, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, Turkey will send Ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali back to Cairo and watch the situation, and will not rule out the possibility of reconsidering their decision.
"We have completed our consultations and are sending back our ambassador," Erdogan told reporters.
The Turkish ambassador was expected to arrive in Cairo early Thursday.
Retired US basketball star Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea for the second time this year, according to Voice of America, reportedly looking to visit his “friend” while on a “basketball diplomacy tour.”
Rodman has not said, however, whether he plans to discuss the release of an imprisoned Korean-American with the country’s authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un.
"I want to try to keep the communication going, as far as like, I just want to go over there to meet my friend Kim, the marshall, and try to, you know, start a new basketball league, stuff like that,” Rodman told reporters.
Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary, is serving 15 years of “hard labor” for “attempting to topple North Korea’s government.”
US Special Envoy on North Korea Human Rights Issues Robert King was supposed to travel to the country last this week to request that Bae be released “on humanitarian grounds,” but Kim Jong Un retracted his invitation because of US-South Korean military drills from last month.
With Bae's health reportedly ailing, some are saying that Rodman’s visit—a “friendly gesture”—may be Bae’s best hope for a speedy release.
North Korea has imprisoned at least six Americans since 2009—none of whom served their full sentences, and most of whom were released following visits by prominent Americans.
President Obama arrived in Stockholm, Sweden yesterday morning, for a brief visit ahead of the G-20 Summit today in St. Petersburg.
This is the first-ever bilateral visit by a US President to Sweden.
President Obama and Prime Minister Reinfeldt held their meeting—during which the leaders discussed Syria’s conflict and the chemical attack from two weeks ago—and a joint press conference.
“I’ve said before that it’s no accident that democracies are America’s closest partners. And that includes Sweden,” Obama said. “That’s why I’m here today. The prime minister and I are in agreement that in the face of such barbarism the international community cannot be silent, and that failing to respond to this attack would only increase the risk of more attacks and the possibility that other countries would use these weapons as well.”
Later, Obama participated in an event to honor Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat and “honorary US citizen who worked courageously to save lives while serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest during World War II."
He also toured an expo at the Royal Institute of Technology, which featured clean energy technologies being developed in Sweden.