Kerry Meets Lavrov
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Zurich, Switzerland as part of a trip to Europe, the Middle East and Asia for talks on issues including the multinational effort to bring political stability to Syria and North Korea's recent nuclear test.
The bilateral talks come at a critical time as plans to launch peace talks on a political transition in Syria on January 25 appear to be in jeopardy.
The United States and Russia are part of the International Syria Support Group, which is backing the United Nations-led effort to bring the Syrian government and opposition together for negotiations. The two countries, however, are at odds over support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
A U.N. spokesman said Monday the world body could not send out invitations for the talks until there was agreement on which opposition representatives should attend. Earlier, the Syrian government said it wanted to see an opposition list before the talks.
According to Russia’s Interfax news agency, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Friday there could be more clarity on the date for intra-Syrian talks following the meeting between Kerry and Lavrov.
Kerry’s final stop, China, comes amid heightened concerns about North Korea’s test of what Pyongyang said was a nuclear device, and the possible response from the international community.
US Senate to Vote on Syrian, Iraqi Refugees
The U.S. Senate is expected to hold a test vote later Wednesday on whether to severely restrict America's acceptance of refugees from Syria and Iraq, because of continuing fears that Islamic State and other terrorist infiltrators could be among the millions who have fled horrific violence and brutality in their home countries.
The House of Representatives passed the measure late last year with bipartisan support as the world reeled from IS-inspired attacks in Paris, France. It would require the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence to certify that refugees pose no security risks before they could be approved for asylum in the United States.
The White House says the legislation is unneeded, as refugees already undergo an intensive vetting process that can take as long as two years. The White House also argues the measure would be counterproductive, tarnishing America's image abroad and handing Islamic State a propaganda tool.