U.N. Holds Special Meeting On Syria After Collapse Of U.S.-Russia Deal As the UN Security Council holds a special meeting on the Syrian civil war, Secretary of State John Kerry says it's a moment of truth but there's little progress.

U.N. Holds Special Meeting On Syria After Collapse Of U.S.-Russia Deal

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Secretary of State John Kerry says this is a moment of truth for Syria. He spoke today at a special United Nations Security Council meeting. A cease-fire plan he negotiated with Russia has collapsed, but Kerry says no one is offering any other way out of a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people already. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports from the United Nations.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary Kerry has spent many hours across the table from his Russian counterpart, but in the U.N. Security Council today, the two men painted very different pictures of the war in Syria. They still back different sides, with the Russians providing air power to support the Syrian regime and the U.S. arguing that chaos will never end as long as President Bashar al-Assad is in charge.


JOHN KERRY: I listen to my colleague from Russia, and I sort of felt a little bit like they're sort of in a parallel universe here.

KELEMEN: The U.S. says it holds Russia responsible for a deadly attack on an aid convoy in Aleppo Monday. Russia denies it was them, but as Kerry points, out only Russian and Syrian warplanes are active in that area.

Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said through an interpreter that everyone should refrain from, quote, "emotional reactions" to the attack.


SERGEY LAVROV: (Through interpreter) And we insist on a very thorough and impartial investigation of the attack on the humanitarian convoy.

KELEMEN: Lavrov tried to pin the collapse of the cease-fire on rebel groups and said it's time for the opposition to negotiate with the regime without preconditions. Secretary Kerry says that's what this whole plan was meant to do - stop the violence and open the way for talks.


KERRY: How can people go sit at a table with a regime that bombs hospitals and drops chlorine gas again and again and again and again and again and again and acts with impunity - you supposed to sit there and have happy talk in Geneva?

KELEMEN: If negotiations ever get off the ground, Bassma Kodmani would be part of them. She represents the Syrian opposition and has been making the rounds here at the U.N. In an interview she expressed frustration that while everyone is talking about a diplomatic settlement, Russia continues a military approach to rehabilitate the Assad regime.

BASSMA KODMANI: What we see is statements, meetings, the endless meetings between Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry and on the other hand a military logic, the logic of war on the ground.

KELEMEN: And even if Secretary Kerry manages to get things back on track, Kodmani says there's a key element missing in his plan.

KODMANI: There is no clear verification system, no mechanisms for enforcing any agreement and no consequences for noncompliance. With that, we are left with reliance on good faith which we have never seen from the Russian regime of course, nor have we seen from the Russians.

KELEMEN: In the Security Council today, Secretary Kerry seemed to share in those frustrations. He says he sees no other pathway out of the conflict other than the deal on the table.


KERRY: Now, those who believe the crisis in Syria cannot become even worse are dead wrong, as are those who believe that a military victory is possible. This could be like Carthage with the Romans, if you call that a victory.

KELEMEN: The U.N. secretary general says the failure to resolve the war in Syria should, quote, "haunt every member of the Security Council." Ban Ki-moon, who leaves office at the end of this year, is challenging U.N. member states to use their influence with the warring sides in Syria and help Syrians negotiate, in his words, a way out of the hell in which they're trapped today. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations.

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