US, Russia set for surprise meeting on Syria. Is compromise in works?

Secretary Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will discuss Syria with UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi today, amid reports that Syria is deploying its chemical weapons.

Vincent Thian/AP
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, holds a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last month. The two officials are set to hold a surprise meeting with UN special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi today in Dublin, Ireland, to discuss a possible resolution to the Syrian crisis.

The top US and Russian diplomats will hold a surprise meeting Thursday with the United Nations' peace envoy for Syria, signaling fresh hopes of an international breakthrough to end the Arab country's 21-month civil war.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will gather in Dublin on the sidelines of a human rights conference, a senior US official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter. She provided few details about the unscheduled get-together.

Ahead of the three-way meeting, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lavrov met separately Thursday for about 25 minutes. They agreed to hear Mr. Brahimi out on a path forward, a senior US official said. The two also discussed issues ranging from Egypt to North Korea, as well as new congressional action aimed at Russian officials accused of complicity in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

The former Cold War foes have fought bitterly over how to address Syria's conflict, with Washington harshly criticizing Moscow of shielding its Arab ally. The Russians respond by accusing the US of meddling by demanding the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad's regime and ultimately seeking an armed intervention such as the one last year against the late Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi.

But the gathering of the three key international figures suggests possible compromise in the offing. At the least, it confirms what officials describe as an easing of some of the acrimony that has raged between Moscow and Washington over the future of an ethnically diverse nation whose stability is seen as critical given its geographic position in between powder kegs Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel.

The threat of Syria's government using some of its vast stockpiles of chemical weapons is also adding urgency to diplomatic efforts. Western governments have cited the rising danger of such a scenario this week, and officials say Russia, too, shares great concern on this point.

On Thursday, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad accused the United States and Europe of using the issue of chemical weapons to justify a future military intervention against Syria. He warned that any such intervention would be "catastrophic."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.