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Kerry Russia Trip: Syrian Civil War At Forefront Of Discussions With Putin

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and United States Secretary of State John Kerry sat down on Tuesday to discuss strategic planning for a conference to bring together Syrian representatives on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad as well as opposition rebel groups before the end of this month. Potential logistics for the upcoming conference are not firm at this time, but Lavrov assured that enforcing the Geneva Communique from June 2012 will be a top priority. The decision by Russia and the United States to convene this peace-keeping conference between representatives of Assad and rebel groups comes after nearly a year of proxy war disguised in humanitarian tones. 

Kerry’s first trip to Russia as Secretary of State came during a Cold War-esque relationship of increasing frustration between the two nations. Russian President Vladimir Putin kept Kerry waiting for three hours before the meeting, but it lasted longer than anticipated. The resolution to bring together Assad representatives and opposition rebel groups was well-worth the wait. Kerry told Putin before their meeting Tuesday, “The United States believes that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria — stability in the region, not having extremists creating problems throughout the region and elsewhere.”   

Tension has been growing globally over the Syrian conflict ever since President Barack Obama made infamous remarks about a “red line” being drawn regarding any attempt to use biological or chemical weapons by Assad back in August 2012. This line grew fuzzier after a March 19 report that indicated chemical weapons were used in a town near Aleppo

Reports this weekend have blurred the line even further when Carla Del Pone of the UN independent commission of inquiry on Syria specified evidence that Syrian rebels were responsible for the sarin gas. Del Ponte reported,

“Our investigators have been in neighbouring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.  This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities."

The Geneva Communique was intended to create action groups to assist with accomplishing peace-keeping objectives and facilitation of a Syrian-led transition. Action group participants were to be highly opposed to further militarization and chaired by Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria.    

Let’s hope that the United States maintains a non-intervention strategy and reconsiders the Geneva Communique rather than politicizing chemical weapon usage or playing into Neo Cold War imperialism. The U.S. has a history of promoting “humanitarian” efforts in Iraq after accusations of WMD’s, but let’s not forget the tragic ethno-sectarian civil war of post-Saddam Iraq in which 650,000 people died.  

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