Clinton sees ‘constructive’ talks with Russia
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that the United States held “constructive” talks with Russia but urged more action after days of feuding over the bloodshed in Syria.
Clinton, who on Tuesday accused Russia of fueling the violence by sending attack helicopters to Syria, said that Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns met Russia’s foreign minister on the sidelines of a conference in Afghanistan.
“My deputy Bill Burns had a constructive meeting in Kabul with Russian Foreign Minister (Sergei) Lavrov. We don’t see eye to eye on all of the issues, but our discussions continue,” Clinton told a news conference.
Clinton said that US President Barack Obama would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at next week’s Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Russia voiced anger after Clinton said that attack helicopters were “on the way” from Russia to Syria. The State Department declined to specify the source of its information.
But Clinton’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, largely confirmed a report in The New York Times that the attack helicopters had already belonged to Syria and were sent to Russia for refurbishing.
“These are helicopters that have been out of the fight for some six months or longer. They are freshly refurbished,” Nuland told reporters.
“The concern remains that they will be used for the exact same purpose that the current helicopters in Syria are being used and that is to kill civilians,” Nuland said.
The New York Times quoted a spokesman for Russia’s state-owned arms supplier, Rosoboronexport, who said that the company was fulfilling contracts with Syria and not violating United Nations sanctions.
Russia is a longtime supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces are accused of massacres despite agreeing to a ceasefire under a peace plan drafted by joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Clinton, speaking at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and their counterparts from South Korea, said that it remained “urgent” to find a way to stop the bloodshed.
“We want to see an end to the violence and we want to see the full implementation of Kofi Annan’s plan so that the people of Syria have the same opportunity that the people of the Republic of Korea or the United States have to choose their own leaders and to build their own future,” she said.