Syria crisis: John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov announce 'constructive' Geneva meeting to continue in New York as US and Russia push for 'Geneva 2' peace talks

 

The international envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, held meeting with John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov as key talks in Geneva enter the second day.

Speaking from the UN headquarters in Geneva, Mr Lavrov and Mr Kerry spoke after the short meeting and said they had agreed to meet again in New York in two weeks time.

Mr Kerry described the talks as constructive and said the meeting in New York later this month would be to try and set a date for the so-called Geneva 2 conference.

Mr Kerry also said Russia and America were working hard to find "common ground", but progress in New York would depend on “the capacity to have success here in the next hours, days, on the subject of the chemical weapons”.

Damascus formally applied to join a global poison gas ban - a move welcomed on Friday by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He called it “an important step towards the resolution of the Syrian crisis” and added: “This confirms the serious intention of our Syrian partners to follow this path.” China also hailed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's decision.

Brahimi has been trying to convene Geneva 2, an international conference, to broker a political solution to the Syrian crisis. He met separately with the US Secretary of State on Thursday, but it is not known if he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Mr Lavrov for one-on-one talks later in the day.

The second day of talks came after Mr Kerry opened swiftly-convened talks on Syria's chemical weapons on Thursday by bluntly rejecting the country's pledge to begin a “standard process” by turning over information rather than weapons - and nothing immediately.

"This is not a game," he declared at an opening news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov stood beside him. "The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough."

The latest developments have gone rapidly from deadly chemical attacks to threats of retaliatory US air strikes, Syrian agreement with a Russian plan to turn over the weapons and, finally, to the crucial matter of working out the difficult details.

"We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this moment because of the way the regime has behaved," Mr Kerry said. And he kept alive the threat of US military action, saying the turnover of weapons must be complete, verifiable and timely - "and finally, there ought to consequences if it doesn't take place".

Adding to the drama, Russian president Vladimir Putin weighed in from afar, raising eyebrows with an opinion piece in The New York Times. Mr Putin warned that a US strike against Syria because of chemical weapons use could unleash new terrorist attacks and maintained there was "every reason to believe" the weapons were used by rebels and not by Bashar Assad's military. In Washington, Mr Obama's spokesman said Russia was "isolated and alone" in that view.

The back-and-forth was a stark indication of the challenging work ahead as Mr Kerry, Mr Lavrov and their teams of chemical weapons experts plunge into talks aimed at finding agreement on how to dismantle the chemical weapons amid the confusion and danger of Syria's civil war.

Mr Lavrov seemed to contradict Mr Kerry's negative view of Assad's offer to provide details on his country's chemical arsenal beginning 30 days after it signs an international convention banning such weapons.

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations said that as of yesterday his country had become a full member of the treaty, which requires destruction of all chemical weapons. But the United Nations said it would take at least another 30 days.

Mr Lavrov said the initiative must proceed "in strict compliance with the rules that are established by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons".

"We proceed from the fact that the solution to this problem will make unnecessary any strike on the Syrian Arab Republic, and I am convinced that our American colleagues, as President Obama stated, are firmly convinced that we should follow a peaceful way of resolution to the conflict in Syria." Mr Lavrov said.

The distrust in US-Russia relations was on display, even in an off-hand parting exchange at the news conference. Just before it ended, Mr Kerry asked the Russian translator to repeat part of Mr Lavrov's concluding remarks.

When it was clear that Mr Kerry was not going to get an immediate re-translation, Mr Lavrov apparently tried to assure him that he had not said anything controversial.

"It was OK, John, don't worry," he said. "You want me to take your word for it?" Mr Kerry asked Mr Lavrov. "It's a little early for that." They were smiling at that point.

The meetings in Geneva began on Thursday as Mr Assad, in an interview with Russia's Rossiya-24 TV, said his government would start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention. He also said the Russian proposal for securing the weapons could work only if the US halted threats of military action.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders