KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Syria has launched a major offensive against the rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo. And this is happening as diplomats are at an impasse over how to unwind a complicated and devastating war. There have been meetings all week at the United Nations. And as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, the U.S. and Russia are still at odds.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary of State John Kerry says he's keeping the door open, hoping that Russia, which backs the Syrian regime, will use its influence to rein it in. But one of the Syrian activists Kerry met in New York last night, Mutasem Al Syofi, says it's time for the secretary to realize the deep contradictions between U.S. and Russian objectives.
MUTASEM AL SYOFI: Regardless what they agree on, every party has his own agenda. The Russian agenda is not for a political solution and a political transition. From what we see on the ground, the Russian agenda is for rehabilitating Bashar al-Assad's regime.
KELEMEN: Soofi says Kerry made clear in their private meeting that the U.S. isn't about to send in troops or have another Iraq or Afghanistan on its hands.
SYOFI: We told him two things. First, we are not asking for invasion. Second, there are other alternatives.
KELEMEN: The U.S. and its coalition partners, he says, could bomb Syrian airstrips, for instance. What Kerry wants, though, is for Russia to ground Syria's air force. Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, is brushing off that idea, saying he won't go beyond the deal agreed to this month, which requires the U.S. to separate moderate rebels from terrorists and share intelligence with Moscow.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SERGEY LAVROV: Any special measures which go beyond the document of 9 of September are senseless if we don't start separation.
KELEMEN: U.S. officials say they are starting to think about what's next, but don't really have a plan B. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, says the war in Syria, quote, "weighs on everyone, including President Obama."
SAMANTHA POWER: I mean, he's the first to say that he's not satisfied with the picture out of Syria, with the rise of terrorism, with the flow of refugees, with the heartbreak that so many families are enduring. So it's no easy choice. And I think, again, we have put in play just about every tool in the American toolbox, short of making war against the Assad regime.
KELEMEN: We spoke earlier this week, when there was still some hope that the U.S.-Russian diplomacy could get back on track. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.