UN Syria envoy joins 'excellent' Russia-US meeting

UN Syria envoy joins 'excellent' Russia-US meeting
3 min read
26 August, 2016
Senior Russian and US diplomats sat with the UN's Syria chief in a new push for peace talks between the country's warring parties, while Moscow and Anakra officials also met.
The high-level meeting took place in Geneva on Friday [Getty]

The UN envoy for Syria joined a much-anticipated meeting between Russia and the United States on Friday, raising hopes for progress towards fresh peace talks to end the brutal five-year conflict.

Staffan de Mistura arrived in Geneva to attend talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who had met earlier in the day to work towards paving the way towards a new round of negotiations between Syria’s warring factions.

Kerry and Lavrov shook hands before world media on Friday morning however fell short of commenting on the meeting, with the Russian official declaring he does not "want to spoil the atmosphere for the negotiations."

Peace meet

However, Lavrov said the meeting was proceeding in an "excellent" fashion when asked by reporters during a break.

On Thursday, Mistura - who had previously hoped to gather warring parties around the negotiating table by August - said the discussions would be "important", and could help his drive to revive peace talks, five years into the conflict.

Officials said all sides will try to secure a cease-fire between Syria's government and rebels and a new US-Russian arrangement to share intelligence and coordinate military efforts against the Islamic State group and other jihadi organisations.

Both Moscow and Washington stand on opposing sides of Syria's battlefront, with one side supporting the rebels and the other defiantly standing with Bashar al-Assad.

Despite sharp differences in their interpretations of the conflict, the former Cold War foes have been weighing a partnership against their mutual enemies: IS and al-Qaeda.

The leaders held a thorough exchange of views on the situation in Syria. They noted the importance of joint efforts in line with the fight against terrorism.

As part of the deal, US officials said Russia would have to halt offensives by Assad's government, something it has failed to do over months of diplomatic efforts.

They said the US must get rebels to break ranks with Fatah al-Sham, a task that may be more difficult after its fighters successfully broke Aleppo's siege earlier this month.

Turkey meeting

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday agreed to step up efforts to ensure humanitarian aid reaches citizens in Syria's conflict-torn northern Aleppo province.

In telephone talks "the two leaders... agreed to accelerate efforts to ensure help reaches people in Aleppo," the state-run Anadolu news agency said, adding that Erdogan briefed Putin on the current Turkish operation inside Syria.

The phone call was the latest sign of improving relations between Moscow and Ankara after a deal in June normalising ties in the wake of the crisis sparked by Ankara's shooting down of a Russian war plane last year.

The statement said the two leaders emphasised the need to fight "all terror groups" in Syria, including Islamic State (IS) jihadis.

The Kremlin confirmed the telephone talks.

"The leaders held a thorough exchange of views on the situation in Syria. They noted the importance of joint efforts in line with the fight against terrorism," it said in a statement.