Washington’s top diplomat said it is unclear how tensions over Ukraine could affect the removal of chemical arms from Syria, Agence France-Presse reports.
Russia played a crucial role in persuading Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government to cut 38 days from a revised timeline for relinquishing its remaining chemical-warfare materials, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday.
“We believe that could now be reduced by another 20 to 25 days, and we’d like to see that done,” he told lawmakers at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.
However, “whether or not we can succeed in getting that done will depend to some degree on the outcome of events … with respect to Ukraine,” Kerry said. “My hope is … that events in Ukraine will not interfere.”
Tensions have soared between Moscow and Western capitals following the Russian military occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula at the start of this month. The sides have exchanged threats of political and economic reprisals as Crimean residents prepared for a Sunday vote on whether to pull away from Ukraine’s new, pro-Western interim government.
On Friday, though, a Russian Foreign Ministry insider suggested the Syrian disarmament operation would move forward as planned, Reuters reported.
“If there are no difficulties then in a month, on April 13, the removal will be practically finished,” Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the security and disarmament department, said in a report by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
Kerry suggested that “Russia maintains a significant interest in not having [Syria’s] chemical weapons loose, not having them fall into the hands of terrorists.”
Assad’s government — a close partner of Moscow — agreed to give up the chemicals after an August sarin-gas attack on an opposition-held area prompted international military threats. Observers have questioned the Syrian regime’s ability to fully protect the materials from seizure by other groups fighting in Syria’s civil war, which is now entering its fourth year.
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With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:
- An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clinton leading Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary Johnson at 7%.
- A McClatchy-Marist poll gave Clinton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way ballot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
- Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”
Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."
Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."