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Security Council Talks on Syria End with No Progress

UN Security Council envoys from Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. talk about Syria, but no agreement reached.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/12/2013, 3:15 AM

UN Security Council
UN Security Council
AFP photo

UN Security Council envoys from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States held talks Wednesday on the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, but no agreement was reached.

"They discussed elements that could go into a resolution" on Syria, one UN diplomat told the AFP news agency, referring to the 45-minute meeting between the council's veto-wielding permanent members.

The talks took place at Russia's UN mission in New York. "Everyone set out their position but there were no real negotiations," a Council diplomat added.

Russia has so far blocked Security Council moves to put pressure on its ally President Bashar Al-Assad. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, and that meeting is expected to determine whether the divided council can reach an accord.

"Everyone seems to want to leave space for the Kerry-Lavrov initiative," the Council diplomat told AFP.

Kerry and Lavrov are to discuss a Russian plan to put Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons under international supervision and head off a threatened U.S. military strike.

France, Britain and the United States have been pressing for a resolution that would impose "extremely serious" consequences on the Assad government if it fails to hand over control of its banned chemical weapons.

Under a French drafted resolution obtained by AFP, the Council would give Syria 15 days to say where all its chemical arms are.

The resolution would threaten action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which allows for possible military measures. France has said it is ready to back a U.S. military attack on Assad's forces over a suspected chemical weapons attack on August 21 near Damascus.

Lavrov has said it would be "unacceptable" for the 15-nation Council to pass a text that blames Assad for the attack. Russia also rejects any use of Chaper VII force, diplomats said.

France has indicated it is ready to make limited changes to its text but insists that it must maintain pressure on Assad.

Diplomats predicted the Security Council talks will last several days after the end of the Kerry-Lavrov negotiations and that key changes would have to be made to any resolution put to the vote.

The Security Council faces mounting criticism over what UN leader Ban Ki-moon has called its "embarrassing paralysis" over the 30-month old conflict in Syria in which more than 100,000 people have died.

"Our collective failure to prevent atrocity crimes in Syria of the past two-and-a-half years will remain a heavy burden on the standing of the United Nations and its member states," Ban told a UN meeting Wednesday, according to AFP.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said, "It is regrettable that the Council has been unable to reach agreement on how to shoulder its responsibilities with regard to the Syrian conflict."