The US President did not secure a commitment from his Russian counterpart on Wednesday to renew a UN cross-border aid operation into Syria.
GENEVA–US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Wednesday in Geneva to cooperate toward preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, said the US leader at the end of the US-Russia summit.
Talking at a news conference in Geneva after his first meeting with the Russian leader, Biden said he told Putin “how it is in the interest of both Russia and the United States to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.”
“We agreed to work together there because it’s as much interest (in) Russia’s interest as ours,” he added.
Biden said Putin asked about Afghanistan and expressed a desire that peace and security be maintained there. Biden said he told Putin that a lot of that will depend on him and that Putin indicated he was prepared to “help” on Afghanistan as well as on Iran.
Biden declined to go into further detail. Biden’s administration is mounting new efforts to get Iran to comply with the terms of a nuclear deal it had once agreed to before Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew Washington from the agreement struck with Iran by the US and other world powers in 2015.
Putin also talked about preventing a resurgence of terrorist violence in Afghanistan. Biden said it would be very much in Russia’s interest not to see that happen.
Biden also pressed Putin to drop a push to close the last international humanitarian crossing into Syria, making clear the matter was of “significant importance” to the US.
No deal was reached to keep it open, however.
Russia is threatening to use its UN Security Council veto to close the aid route for millions of Syrians internally displaced by that country’s war.
But the US president did not secure a commitment from his Russian counterpart on Wednesday to renew a UN cross-border aid operation into Syria, a senior administration official said.
Washington and several other members of the 15-member Security Council are pushing to expand the cross-border operation, which UN aid chief Mark Lowcock has described as a “lifeline” for some three million Syrians in the country’s north.
Russia has questioned the importance of the long-running operation.
There was “no commitment, but we made clear that this was of significant importance for us if there was going to be any further cooperation on Syria,” the US official said following the meeting between Biden and Putin in Geneva.
The official described the upcoming renewal as a test of whether the United States and Russia could work together.
The Security Council first authorised a cross-border aid operation by UN and non-governmental organisations into Syria in 2014 at four points. Last year, it reduced that access to one crossing point from Turkey because of opposition from Russia and China over renewing all four.
The mandate for the operation expires on July 10. A resolution to extend council approval needs nine votes in favour and no veto from any of the five permanent members, Russia, China, the United States, France and Britain.
“For countless Syrians, this is a life-or-death vote,” US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told US lawmakers earlier on Wednesday.
In the past decade, the council has been divided over how to handle Syria, with Syrian ally Russia alon with China pitted against Western members. Russia has vetoed 16 resolutions related to Syria and was backed by China for many of those votes.
Explaining why he “thought that it was important to continue to have problems with the president of Syria,” Biden said, “Because he’s in violation of an international norm. It’s called a Chemical Weapons Treaty. Can’t be trusted.”