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US, Russia Exploring Ways to Break Deadlock Over Syria


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of a Mediterranean Dialogues Summit in Rome, Dec. 2, 2016.

The United States and Russia are exploring new ways to break a monthlong diplomatic deadlock over how to stop the fighting in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.

He said the ideas will be tested in follow-up discussions between American and Russian diplomats next week in Geneva.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart in Rome, Kerry urged continued efforts in dealing with the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, saying it is important that all parties work on a framework to provide a passage for people to get out of the besieged city.

“Hopefully, if [the] humanitarian situation could be dealt with in Aleppo more effectively, and if indeed we could create a framework for the passage of people out of Aleppo so that Aleppo itself might be able to be relieved from this agony, that could open up the space to perhaps to be able to start some kind of conversation in Geneva,” Kerry said. “That is (United Nations envoy for Syria) Staffan de Mistura’s goal, that is our goal, it is the apparent Russian goal, we don’t know if it’s (Syrian President Bashar) Assad’s goal at all, but that is what has to be put to task over the course of the next few days.”

FILE - Syrian government soldiers walk amid rubble of damaged buildings after they took control of al-Sakhour neighborhood in Aleppo, in this handout picture provided by SANA, Nov. 28, 2016.
FILE - Syrian government soldiers walk amid rubble of damaged buildings after they took control of al-Sakhour neighborhood in Aleppo, in this handout picture provided by SANA, Nov. 28, 2016.

Goal: Syria-rebel talks

After meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Rome, Kerry described the new approaches as designed to lead to talks between Syria’s government and rebels — a goal that has remained elusive since early 2014 — while stressing that the U.S. and Russia would not wait for President-elect Donald Trump’s presidency to begin January 20.

Lavrov said a compromise on the Syrian civil war is long overdue, and the Syrian government is ready for negotiations.

“And I just met briefly with Staffan de Mistura,” Lavrov said, “and once again encouraged him not to continue dragging on the negotiations and not to wait for those who don’t want to implement the (UN) Security Council resolutions, the resolutions which say a Syrian-inclusive, non-sectarian governance to be created by mutual consent of the government and the opposition. ... The government is ready for this. The government has long been ready.”

Friday’s diplomatic discussions took place on the sidelines of an Italian-hosted conference on the Mediterranean region.

Next meeting in Germany

Kerry said he will discuss Syria again with Lavrov on Wednesday when they meet on the sidelines of a European security conference in Hamburg, Germany.

While Washington has accused Moscow of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, Lavrov blamed the U.S. and United Nations for the current situation.

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