U.S. and Russia see common ground on Syria

May 8, 2013

Kerry and Putin bury the hatchet on Syria, Fergie announces Man U retirement, and Kurdish militants begin withdrawal from Turkey.  Today is Wednesday, May 8, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov take part in a joint news conference after their meeting in Moscow, May 7, 2013. REUTERS/Mladen Antonov/Pool

Kerry’s Moscow meeting yields results. The United States and Russia agreed to put differences aside and work together to organize international talks aimed at finding a solution for Syria’s civil war:

Visiting Moscow after Israel bombed targets near Damascus and as President Barack Obama faces new calls to arm the rebels, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia had agreed to try to arrange a conference as early as this month involving both President Bashar al-Assad’s government and his opponents. An East-West disagreement that has seen some of the frostiest exchanges between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War has deadlocked U.N. efforts to settle the Syrian conflict for two years, so any rapprochement could bring an international common front closer than it has been for many months.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hinted that Russia might be wavering in its support of Assad, and Kerry said that any transitional government would be decided by the Syrian people without Western influence. But rebel forces have long said that they will not accept a new government that includes Assad, and there is no guarantee that both sides will agree to participate in negotiations. The Syrian government today captured a strategic town held by rebels, increasing resentment among opposition leaders who feel a lack of support from neighboring Jordan. Obama faces pressure to act following unconfirmed reports of chemical weapon use by Assad’s forces, a move the U.S. has called a “red line.”

Farewell, Fergie. After serving as Manchester United’s manager for more than 26 years, the iconic Sir Alex Ferguson announced that he will retire at the end of the season:

The 71-year-old Scot ended intense speculation that he was about to call time on his career by confirming he would step aside after champions United’s last game of the season at West Bromwich Albion on May 19. His decision ends a glittering era at Old Trafford in which the club won 13 English league titles, two European Cups, five FA Cups and four League Cups as well as the FIFA Club World Cup.

Ferguson was Britain’s longest-serving soccer manager, and won a record 49 trophies. He oversaw nearly 1,500 matches, leading Manchester United to victory in 900 of them. Ferguson will stay on as director of the club, and bookmakers speculate that either former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho or Everton’s David Moyes will take over as manager.

Peace process progresses. Kurdish militants are set to begin withdrawing from Turkey today, after decades of conflict that killed 40,000 and destroyed parts of the Turkish landscape:

Turkish security forces manned checkpoints along the mountainous border with Iraq, keeping up their guard as the agreed pullout started by the first small groups of some 2,000 Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters. The withdrawal, ordered late last month by top PKK commander Murat Karayilan, is the biggest step yet in a peace deal negotiated by the group’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan with Turkish officials to end 30 years of conflict.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan weathered nationalist backlash for working with the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey, to achieve a ceasefire. PKK fighters will likely start arriving in Iraq in a week, and the pullout is expected to take several months. The PKK’s exit could mark a new beginning for towns plagued by violence.

Nota Bene: Russian President Putin showed Prime Minister Medvedev who’s boss by forcing out Medvedev’s deputy.


Bodies pour in – Nigeria’s hunt for Islamists leads to indiscriminate killings. (The New York Times)

Russia’s reckoning – Reuters columnist John Lloyd warns that Russia may not be prepared to weather the coming storm. (Reuters)

“Do me a solid” – Dennis Rodman asks buddy Kim Jong-un to free detained U.S. citizen. (The Associated Press)

Rock robbers – Police have arrested more than 30 people in relation to a $50 million diamond heist in Belgium. (CNN)

Big brother back? – Britain could be discussing the resurrection of controversial “snooper” bill. (The Guardian)

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