One of the more delicate moments of Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s diplomatic tour of Europe and the Middle East this week is likely to occur when he sits down Tuesday with longtime Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The State Department has been careful in characterizing the meeting, which is expected to focus primarily on the extent to which Moscow and Washington may be able to overcome biting differences in their positions toward Syria’s nearly two-year-old civil war.
Beyond saying Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov “will discuss a wide range of bilateral and international issues” when they meet Tuesday in Berlin, State Department officials have been less than forthcoming in their descriptions of what the two men are hoping to achieve.
“I would expect they’ll talk about all of the issues, bilateral, regional, global,” department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Thursday, adding that “particular emphasis” would likely be put Iran, North Korea and Syria. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Russia, which maintains a naval base on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, effectively blocked a U.S.- and Arab League-backed U.N. Security Council resolution that would have authorized an international intervention in Syria last year.
Moscow recently has shown a willingness to support U.S. and European intervention efforts elsewhere. Russia authorities on Friday flew a planeload of humanitarian aid into Mali, where French military forces are engaged in an ongoing campaign against armed Islamist groups.
Mr. Lavrov made headlines Friday by accusing the U.S. of embracing a double standard toward Syria and of blocking a U.N. statement that would have condemned a recent car bombing near the Russian Embassy in Syria as “terrorist attacks,” telling a news conference the United States was threatening international unity in the “war on terrorism” by blocking the statement.
“We believe these are double standards,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters after holding talks with China’s foreign minister, according to a report by Reuters.
She also disputed his account of what occurred in the U.N. debate, suggesting it was actually Russia’s fault that the statement on the bombing — which killed 50 people in the Syrian capital — was blocked.
Despite calls for such a policy from some Republicans — and private support from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top administration officials — the White House has resisted arming the rebels, citing the presence of Islamist extremist groups within the Syrian opposition forces.
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Guy Taylor rejoined The Washington Times in 2011 as the State Department correspondent.
As a freelance journalist, Taylor’s work was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Fund For Investigative Journalism, and his stories appeared in a variety publications, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to Salon, Reason, Prospect Magazine of London, the Daily Star of Beirut, the ...
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