Skip to main content

Syria civil war: 5 things to pay attention to today

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri September 13, 2013
  • Talks between the United States and Russia continue
  • Russia's Putin New York Times op-ed piece gets backlash
  • Close to 100 die in fighting in Syria Thursday, opposition says

(CNN) -- Today could be a crucial day in the push to rid Syria of chemical weapons.

It's day two of meetings between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland. A plan could be created Friday, but then again ...

The United Nations is also poised to get involved.

Although Syria's bloody civil war is over two years old, power players from many nations seemed focused on making changes.

Here are the five things to pay attention to today.

1. Nailing down a plan

Lavrov and Kerry take 2. The most talked about chat in the world goes into its second day Friday with many hoping that the two can nail down a blueprint to destroy Syria's chemical weapons.

The role of military force in Syria talks
McCain: Would have attacked 2 years ago
Politics & practicalities of a Syria deal
Who is Putin speaking to in that op-ed?

If Thursday's meeting in Geneva is any indication, there is going to be a lot of back and forth. The sparring began in the opening statements.

Lavrov spoke first. Kerry followed with longer and more forceful remarks.

When he finished, Lavrov asked to respond and said he hadn't come "prepared with the extended political statement," adding that "diplomacy likes silence."

Kerry then asked the translator to repeat Lavrov's final comment, but when that didn't happen, Lavrov tried to assure Kerry there was no problem.

"You want me to take your word for it? It's a little early for that," Kerry said, smiling, as the two men shook hands for the cameras.


Though this exchange was playful, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen says Kerry will have his hands full with Lavrov. Cohen said Lavrov is "very, very skilled," "bright," "articulate" and "a very tough negotiator."

The talks could extend into Saturday, officials have said. If any deal is reached, it would have to be taken to the United Nations for consideration.

2. More Putin backlash

Russian President Vladimir Putin may not be America's favorite writer, right now. Putin's opinion piece published Wednesday in the New York Times ruffled some feathers and had at least one U.S. lawmaker looking for a barf bag. The Russian leader's argument against military intervention in Syria brought some response. But his slap at American exceptionalism brought a flurry of U.S. reaction Thursday.

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez says the piece made him almost want to throw up, and House Speaker John Boehner says he's "insulted."

Even though the the White House shrugged off the fuss calling it "irrelevant," don't be surprised if there are more reactions Friday.

3. More fighting and sadly more deaths

Though the camera seems focused on political spats, and negotiations about Syria, in the country a fierce fight continues.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported that fighting killed at least 94 people across Syria on Thursday, including 24 in Daraa province. This figure includes 27 deaths in Daraa province and another 26 in Aleppo province.

The same group documented shelling that struck nearly 500 locales, along with almost 50 military jet attacks.

The fight continues Friday.

4. So where are these chemical weapons?

And while world powers haggle about what to do with Syria's chemical weapons, a rebel leader is claiming the government's cache of mass destruction is on the move.

Gen. Salim Idriss, head of the opposition Free Syrian Army, says Syria's government is shifting its chemical weapons out of the country.


Iraq and Lebanon, Idriss says.

CNN could not verify that claim. And Iraq quickly said: no way.

"We were the victims of chemical weapons under Saddam (Hussein's) regime, and we will never allow to let any country to transfer chemical materials to our lands at all," said an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

5. The UN gets closer to weighing in

A greatly anticipated U.N. report on Syria's alleged chemical attack could be coming soon. This development could speed up an international response to Syria

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday that the United Nations report on the August attack in Syria will "probably" be published on Monday, and that there will "certainly be indications" pointing to the origin of the attack.

France and other U.S. allies have said they want any coordinated response on Syria to be controlled by the U.N.

The report is being created by inspectors who traveled to the site of the chemical weapons attack in the suburban Damascus that the United States estimates killed more than 1,400 people. It could be a first step toward generating support for a Security Council resolution.

The world is waiting.

CNN's Barbara Starr, Steve Brusk, Jamie Crawford, Jake Tapper, Elise Labott, Barbara Starr, John King, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 5:19 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
updated 6:19 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
updated 9:41 PM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.