Slatest PM: Will Weapons Negotiations Set the Stage For Syrian Peace Talks?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 13 2013 4:58 PM

Slatest PM: Will Weapons Negotiations Set the Stage For Syrian Peace Talks?

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Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) speaks on September 13, 2013 during a press conference with United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (C) and US Secretary of State John Kerry after their high-stakes talks on Syria's chemical weapons at the UN headquarters in Geneva

Photo by LARRY DOWNING/AFP/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Possible Peace Talks: Associated Press: "Prospects for restarting peace talks in Syria's civil war depend on the outcome of negotiations for the Syrian government to give up its chemical weapons, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday as meetings on the arsenal lurched into a second day. ... Kerry, flanked by Lavrov and Brahimi, told reporters after an hourlong meeting that the chances for a second peace conference in Geneva will require success first with the chemical weapons talks .... Kerry said they agreed to meet around Sept. 28 on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly high-level meetings in New York. But, he said, the future of peace negotiations depends on the outcome of the weapons talks."

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A Long Way to Go: Washington Post: "The United States and Russia had floated the idea months ago of hosting a peace conference to bring together the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels trying to unseat him. The proposal went nowhere. Kerry began the second day of hastily arranged disarmament talks by saying that the potential for reviving the peace conference option 'will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here.' So far, there is little evidence that the U.S. and Russian negotiators are making progress."

How Assad Hid His Stockpile: Wall Street Journal: "A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime's chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials. The movements of chemical weapons by Syria's elite Unit 450 could complicate any U.S. bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks, officials said. It also raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile, they said. U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies still believe they know where most of the Syrian regime's chemical weapons are located, but with less confidence than six months ago, U.S. officials said."

It's Friday, September 13th, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @Slatest. Programming note: I'm off on Monday and Tuesday, so there won't be a traditional PM post leading the afternoon newsletter each day. But subscribers will still get the PM email, and the @Slatest blog proper will remain up and running. Things will return to normal on Wednesday.

Shore Blaze Suspicious: ABC News: "The massive fire that engulfed the iconic Jersey shore boardwalk is considered 'suspicious' and is being investigated by the Ocean County Prosecutors Office, sources told ABC News. ... Investigators are suspicious of the fire's origin for the following reasons: it was a midday fire with no bad weather to speak of or obvious cause, there were no injuries, the structure survived the summer season only to burn now and a huge number of firefighters were not around Thursday because the annual New Jersey Firemen's Convention is kicking off today in Atlantic City, sources told ABC News."

Dzhokar's Friends: Reuters: "Three college friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges that they helped cover his tracks when the FBI was trying to find the people responsible for the April 15 attack. All three are charged with going to Tsarnaev's dorm room three days after the bombing and removing a laptop and a backpack containing empty fireworks shells after receiving a text message from him telling them to "go to my room and take what's there," according to court papers. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both 19-year-old exchange students from Kazakhstan, pleaded not guilty to the charge of obstruction of justice and could face 25 years in prison or deportation. ... Robel Phillipos, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to investigators and could face up to 16 years in prison."

Update from India: NBC News:  "Four men were sentenced to death by an Indian court on Friday for the gang-rape and murder of a young New Delhi woman on a moving bus -- a case that sparked furious protests across the country and a rare national debate about violence against women. Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Sing were convicted Tuesday of raping the young woman for an hour, torturing her with an iron rod on a moving bus and then throwing her naked and bleeding onto the road. The attack left her with such severe internal injuries that she died two weeks later."

Up-Like Dream Comes Down: CBS News:  "A North Carolina man set out to make history on Thursday. His aim was to travel from the United States to Europe using hundreds of helium balloons. However, the trip hasn't gone according to plan. The multicolored launch looked like a scene out of a Hollywood movie, but Jonathan Trappe's dream to reach Europe was short-lived, ending just 12 hours after it began in a remote part of Canada. He was forced to land on the west coast Newfoundland Thursday night. ... [J]ust 12 hours after his splashy departure, Trappe was forced to return to Earth ... in a statement, representatives for Trappe cited a 'technical issue' as the reason behind the forced landing."

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate

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