Russian-American negotiations on Syrian disarmament got off to a rocky start with terse welcoming remarks as the parties arrived in Switzerland.
Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, arrived Thursday in Geneva—each armed with a pack of weapons experts—to begin negotiations on removing chemical weapons out of the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who the U.S. has accused of gassing his own civilians.
They are still pursuing a diplomatic solution to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, Kerry said Friday in a brief statement. Peace talks surrounding the country’s civil war would depend on how successful the weapons negotiations are.
“We are working hard to find the common ground to be able to make that happen and we discussed some of the homework that we both need to do,” he said in a joint appearance with Lavrov. He added that negotiations on peace in the Syrian civil war would potentially continue between the pair in New York, Sept. 28 at the United Nations.
On Thursday, talks started off tersely, NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell reported.
“They got off to a really bad start,” Mitchell said on Morning Joe Friday from Geneva. “Partly because of the [Vladimir] Putin Op-Ed, partly because Kerry in the opening remarks spoke at length and I mean at length, compared to the unprepared few welcoming comments from the Russian counterpart.”
“This is not a game,” Kerry said firmly in his remarks and pressured his counterparts that “expectations” were high.
“The Russian minister at the end said very tartly, ‘sometimes diplomacy demands silence,’ so that wasn’t such a great moment,” Mitchell said.
But Mitchell said she saw some thawing on Friday.
“Today, Lavrov, the minster, was speaking in English. That’s always a sign of a little bit of friendliness from the Russians,” she said.
Kerry met with the former special representative for Syria, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, on Friday afternoon.
Afterward, Annan told Mitchell he was hopeful about the chemical weapons talks, but hoped the peace talks surrounding the civil war would resume soon.
Kerry will travel to Jerusalem Sunday to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, as well as Syria.