Secretary of State John F. Kerry will take a team of weapons and disarmament experts to Geneva for meetings Thursday and Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the State Department said. Lavrov is expected to bring his team of experts to discuss a proposal that has so far been presented in only the barest terms.
“I would characterize it more as ideas than as a lengthy packet,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of missives that have arrived from Moscow since Lavrov announced the offer, which received quick agreement from the Syrian government, on Monday.
“Part of this effort is to figure out how to make the destruction effort logistically and technically possible” in the midst of Syria’s raging civil war, Psaki said. “It would be challenging.”
In addition to holding Congress at bay, the administration deflected action at the U.N. Security Council, where France appeared to have jumped the gun early Tuesday with a proposed resolution tying a Syrian agreement to surrender its chemical weapons to authorization for international military action if President Bashar al-Assad reneged.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that there would be no deal under the threat of military force, the five veto-wielding council members — Russia and China on one side and Britain, France and the United States on the other — also seemed to be treading water in a closed-door meeting in New York on Wednesday. No further action was announced.
In an opinion column published in the New York Times on Wednesday, Putin warned the United States against unilateral action in Syria, and sharply questioned Obama’s assertion during a televised address Tuesday night that a willingness to act is what makes the United States “exceptional.”
“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” Putin wrote. “There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
U.N. chemical weapons inspectors are expected to release a report Monday that reinforces U.S. and European claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people, according to senior U.N.-based diplomats. The report will not directly accuse the Syrian regime, the diplomats said. But it will offer a strong circumstantial case that points in the direction of Syrian government culpability.