US and Russia begin lackluster talks on Syria war

US and Russia begin lackluster talks on Syria war
2 min read
15 October, 2016
Hopes are low of a diplomatic breakthrough between Russia and the US could come about, as gloomy diplomats sit down to discuss Syria's ongoing carnage.
Syrian activists are holding protests outside the conference [AFP]

The US, Russia and regional powers engaged in Syria's war met on Saturday in Switzerland in a new bid by Washington to end the bombing of Aleppo.

Secretary of State John Kerry is trying revive talk of a ceasefire after a previous truce was viscously broken last month when an aid convoy was bombed by suspected Russian or Syrian war planes.

The event saw relations between the Syrian regime's backer, Russia, and the pro-opposition US, suffer a serious set back with Washington ending communication with Moscow on the peace talks.

Even now, as the two powers sit down for talks on the future of Syria once again, there is little hope of progress in negotiations.

"We are not pursuing this directly with the Russians bilaterally any more," one senior US official told reporters.

"But just because the format has evolved doesn't mean that the underlying objectives have changed."

Adding pressure

Moscow and its allies have also shown no signs of putting pressure on the Syrian regime President Bashar al-Assad, and its mission still appears to be to convince the US that a large section of the Syrian rebel movement are "terrorists".

A day earlier, Lavrov told reporters he had no "special expectations" of progress.

We are not pursuing this directly with the Russians bilaterally any more.

It comes as Moscow faces increased criticism for its role in Syria, and the hundreds of civilians killed in recent bombing by Russian war planes.

Russia has said it is not bringing anything new to the table, and instead wants the US to pressure "moderate rebel groups" to disengage with "terrorist groups".

The presence of small numbers of Fatah al-Sham fighters - a group previously affiliated with al-Qaeda - has been used as a pretext by Russia to pound opposition areas of Aleppo.

Low hopes

Meanwhile, Russia's ally in Syria, Iran, also voiced scepticism.

"I don't think we can have a lot of a hope for the outcome of this meeting," said a spokesperson with the Iranian foreign ministry.

As talks went on, Moscow's flagship aircraft carrier set sail for the Syrian coast, and the aircraft onboard will almost certainly be involved in future waves of bombing in Syria.

Abdal Ahad Stefo, deputy head of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Coalition, told AFP that the negotiations "will only lead to wasting more time... and the shedding of more Syrian blood".

Indeed, many in Syria have also grown sceptical of talk of peace.

Agencies contributed to this story.