Conflict & Justice

Kerry to meet Russia's Lavrov to discuss Syrian chemical weapons



US Secretary of State John Kerry listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov deliver remarks during meetings on Aug. 9, 2013, in Washington, DC.


Paul J. Richards

After a week of reversals and suspenseful decision-making on whether to strike Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he will meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva on Thursday.

Kerry arrived in Geneva Thursday morning and is due to meet the United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi before he meets with Lavrov.

Talks between Kerry and Lavrov will center around the Russian proposal for international monitors to oversee Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons, the Wall Street Journal reported.

At the same time, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told a Russian TV channel that his government's decision to hand over weapons could be attributed to Russia, not the threat of an American military strike.

"Syria is handing over its chemical weapons under international supervision because of Russia," Assad told state-run Rossiya-24, according to RT. "The US threats did not influence the decision."

US arms experts are to expected to meet with their Russian counterparts to discuss the details of the deal.

The Russian proposal has offered US President Barack Obama a way out of an increasingly difficult campaign to convince Congress to vote for a strike on Syria.

The US Senate on Wednesday put on hold a resolution that would see Congress vote on air strikes in Syria, deferring to the diplomatic efforts of the Obama administration.

The drawn-out process created a shrill debate among pundits and the public as to the merits of striking Syria, a nation gripped by a two-and-a-half-year civil war that's killed an estimated 100,000.

The State Department has said the meeting Thursday with Russia is a first step in determining how workable the proposal really is.

"Our goal here is to test the seriousness of this proposal, to talk about the specifics of how this would get done, what are the mechanics of identifying, verifying, securing and ultimately destroying the chemical weapons," State Department representative Jennifer Psaki said, according to the WSJ. "And, this requires, of course, a willingness from both sides."

Some believe that Russia's proposal is simply a ruse to keep its Syrian allies in power. But short of ousting President Bashar al-Assad's government militarily, the Obama administration has few other options.

More from GlobalPost: UN accuses both sides of war crimes in Syria

A large majority of Americans oppose airstrikes on Syria, despite graphic videos, images and other evidence that appears to show Assad has turned chemical weapons against his own people. A Washington Post/ABC poll puts the proportion of the country against military involvement at about 64 percent.

A similar survey of US troops found 75 percent of service members opposing the strikes.

The results of the survey likely show a growing war weariness, particularly when it comes to the Middle East and Central Asia — where recent invasions and occupations have been incredibly costly both in lives and money, for little result.

The difficult situation in Syria has created complex alliances both in the United States and abroad as to who supports and opposes the strikes.

Conservative libertarians and Tea Party Republicans have mostly voiced their opposition to the strikes, while liberal internationalists and hawkish Republicans support them.

The United States' greatest military ally, the United Kingdom, pulled back its support after a parliamentary vote, while France's Socialist President Francois Hollande continues to seek to persuade his public and government to support intervention.

The flip-flops, reversals, back downs and tough talk all point to one thing: there is no easy answer.

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