September 11, 2013 / 11:55 PM / 4 years ago

U.S., Russia, other big powers meet on Syria in New York

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The five permanent veto-wielding powers of the U.N. Security Council met in New York on Wednesday to discuss plans to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control as Britain, France and the United States talked about drafting a resolution.

A Free Syrian Army fighter looks through the scope of his sniper rifle at an area controlled by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's Al-Ezaa neighbourhood September 11, 2013. REUTERS/Aref Hretani

The U.N. ambassadors of China and Russia as well as Britain, France and the United States met for about half an hour at the Russian U.N. mission. They declined comment as they left.

“Today’s discussion helped to pave the way for tomorrow’s meeting” in Geneva between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said one council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another diplomat said before the meeting in New York that the envoys would not “really be discussing draft resolutions yet.”

An initial French draft resolution called for delivering an ultimatum to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to give up its chemical arsenal or face punitive measures. Russia has said that text is unacceptable.

Diplomats said there have been other drafts under discussion and an attempt was being made to come up with common language agreeable to all three Western powers. Britain, France and the United States met separately earlier on Wednesday on the issue.

Russia, backed by China, has vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad’s government and threatening it with sanctions. The 15-member U.N. Security Council has been deadlocked for months over Syria.

On Tuesday, Syria accepted a Russian proposal to surrender its chemical weapons to international control to try to win a possible reprieve from U.S. military strikes threatened by U.S. President Barack Obama as a way of preventing a repeat of a chemical weapons attack on August 21 on suburbs of Damascus that killed more than 1,400 people.

Washington and other Western powers blame Assad’s forces for the attack, while Damascus blames it on rebels fighting to overthrow the Syrian government.

Russia has said it does not want a binding Security Council resolution on its Syria proposal but rather a “presidential statement,” which is simply a council declaration. Western diplomats says that is insufficient as it would not have the force of law like a resolution.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Doina Chiacu and Christopher Wilson

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