Russia’s Lavrov backs renewal of UN-led Syria talks

1486310927554420300MOSCOW: Russia’s Lavrov backs renewal of UN-led Syria talks


MOSCOW: Russia said on Sunday that it supports the continuation of Syria peace talks under UN auspices, long-running negotiations which had been thrown into doubt by separate, Moscow-backed peace talks launched last month.

The latest round of UN talks had been planned to begin in Geneva on Feb. 8 but Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that they had been postponed.
They have now been rescheduled for Feb. 20, diplomats have told Reuters. The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said he had decided to delay them to take advantage of negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition in Astana, Kazakhstan, hosted by Moscow, Ankara and Tehran.
The Astana talks last month ended with Russia, Turkey and Iran agreeing to monitor Syrian government and opposition compliance with a Dec. 30 truce brokered by Moscow and Ankara.
Lavrov said on Sunday the Astana talks between representatives of Syrian President Bashar Assad and opposition groups were a “breakthrough step” in efforts to resolve the crisis but were not instead of the UN-led talks.
“We are not planning to replace Geneva with the Astana format,” he said in an interview published on the ministry’s web site on Sunday.
The Astana talks were a diplomatic coup that underlined the growing Middle East clout of Russia, Iran and Turkey and Washington’s diminished influence at a time when Donald Trump is settling into the presidency.
But the talks spotlighted sharp differences between Moscow and Tehran over the possible future participation of the US and also excluded Gulf states.



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