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Diplomatic Process ‘Paralyzed’ in Syria Conflict

July 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Judy interviews Elizabeth Kennedy, Associated Press bureau chief in Beirut. They discuss the latest massacre, Russia's support, the chemical weapons stockpile and a warning by Hillary Clinton to the U.N. Security Council.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. response came from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In a statement, she said she is outraged by reports of the massacre, and added, “History will judge the U.N. Security Council if it allows the slaughter to continue.”

For more on the situation in Syria, we turn to Elizabeth Kennedy, the Associated Press bureau chief in Beirut. I spoke to her just a short time ago.

Elizabeth Kennedy, welcome.

Is there anything you can add to that report we just heard from inside Syria?

ELIZABETH KENNEDY, Associated Press: Well, we have spoken to activists in the area who do say that this is yet another massacre, that they’re enduring another massacre in Syria.

And they are desperate for help, if not from the outside, then some sort of relief from more than a year of horrible violence in Syria.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we just heard that very firm comment from Secretary of State Clinton. What do we know about what is happening on the diplomatic front?

ELIZABETH KENNEDY: The diplomatic process in Syria right now is paralyzed. It’s really struggling.

There’s been, like I said, more than a year of violence in Syria. By some estimates, 17,000 people have died. But it’s very difficult to point to even one sort of concrete results that have come out of this process. After we heard about the latest violence in Hama, we heard very strong words from Hillary Clinton, from Ban Ki-Moon, from Kofi Annan, all condemning the violence, condemning the government for its use of heavy weapons and helicopters.

And Hillary Clinton in particular called on the Security Council, the U.N. Security Council, to take firm action. She said history will judge this council if we sit by and do nothing. But those strong words really don’t change the reality on the ground, which is that, over the course of this uprising, Syria has proved largely impervious to this kind of pressure, to this kind of diplomatic pressure.

There’s really no appetite for any sort of international military intervention, like we saw in Libya. Several rounds of sanctions from the U.S. and other Western countries have done nothing to stop the violence. And, crucially, Syria still has the support of Russia, which is a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, and has proven to — you know, to really have formed a buffer around Syria on the international stage.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But there still are these efforts to get the Security Council to agree to stronger sanctions. But you are saying it doesn’t look like that’s going anywhere.

ELIZABETH KENNEDY: Russia has one remaining ally in the Middle East, and that is Syria. They do not want to lose this alliance.

They sell weapons to Syria, so there is a financial incentive. And also Russia really rejects any sort of world order that they see as dominated by the West, dominated by the U.S. And they also say that it’s naive to look at the Syria conflict as black and white.

They say, as does the Syrian regime, that there are other factors at play here, that — that — you know, that there are extremists involved, that there are terrorists involved. So they really reject this idea of blaming the violence on the regime.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, there are these reports today that the Syrian regime has moved its stockpiles of chemical weapons. Have you been able to learn anything about that?

ELIZABETH KENNEDY: This is definitely a subject that has the potential to dramatically escalate this conflict.

There are reports that Syria is moving its chemical stockpiles out of storage areas. But there is really no clear idea about what they’re doing with them, what they intend to do with them. So, right now, U.S. officials are watching this closely. The world community is sort of watching this closely, but there’s no clear sign of what Syria’s — what Syria’s motivation is for doing this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Elizabeth Kennedy with the Associated Press, we thank you for talking with us about it from Beirut. Thank you.

ELIZABETH KENNEDY: Thank you.