Secretary of State Meets with Russian Official to Push for End to Syria’s War
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JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn again to the war in Syria.
Inside the country, there was more heavy fighting today. Outside, diplomatic leaders held a last-minute meeting to help resolve the conflict.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Events on the ground in Syria are accelerating. And we — we see that in many different ways.
JEFFREY BROWN: The civil war in Syria was never far away for the ministers at today’s European security conference in Ireland.
In another sign that Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be changing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held surprise talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.N. Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who spoke to the press.
LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, U.N. envoy to Syria: We haven’t taken any sensational decisions. But I think we have agreed that the situation is bad and we have agreed that we must continue to work together to see how we can find creative ways of bring this problem under control.
JEFFREY BROWN: All of this amid rising fears that the Syrian president might use chemical weapons against the rebels.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joined a chorus of U.S. warnings.
DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA: The intelligence that we have raises serious concerns that this is being considered.
JEFFREY BROWN: Those concerns were echoed on Capitol Hill.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: So, if Syrian TV is catching this news conference, there’s been a tidal shift here to where military force will be used to prevent those chemical weapons from ever seeing the light of day.
JEFFREY BROWN: But Syria’s deputy foreign minister, speaking on Lebanese TV, charged that if anyone is planning to use chemical warfare, it’s the West.
FAISAL MIQDAD, Syrian deputy foreign minister (through translator): We have strong fears of the existence of a conspiracy to use the weapon by the United States and some European states, which might have supplied such weapons to terrorist organizations in Syria in order to claim later that Syria is the one that used these weapons.
JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, Germany’s cabinet endorsed a plan to deploy Patriot missiles along Turkey’s border with Syria. NATO says the missiles will be used for defensive purposes, but, in Beijing today, the government of China objected.
HONG LEI, Chinese Foreign Ministry (through translator): We have noticed the situation.
China has always insisted on political resolution of tensions in Syria through dialogue and consultation. Highlighting military factors and strengthening military existence are not conducive to the resolution of conflicts and disputes.
JEFFREY BROWN: In Syria today, heavy fighting continued around Damascus, where the government forces are trying to beat back encroaching rebel fighters.