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United States to Press Russia on Syria's Assad - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at Vnukovo international airport near Moscow, Russia, March 23, 2016.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at Vnukovo international airport near Moscow, Russia, March 23, 2016.

After Europe’s foreign policy chief attended unpredictably in Geneva in an attempt to strengthen peace talks, U.S U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will press President Putin over a political transition for Syria on Thursday.

From one side, the current truce is not at its peak of strength and from the other side; Europe is pressing the warring sides to get along progressively with negotiations. Kerry wants to “get down to brass tacks” on the question of President Bashar al-Assad’s future, stated a state department official.

The head of Syria’s delegation in Geneva showed positive vibes after meeting European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, a rare encounter with a senior Western figure.

“For the first time, I can tell you that we were able to break the impasse, maybe in the form and a little bit in substance,” he said, adding that the government would attend the next round of talks after legislative elections in government-held areas on April 13.

No details were however given, and Mogherini said the EU had not altered its position on the need to start a political transition in Damascus. The Saudi-backed opposition, whose chief delegate also met Mogherini, has said there are no points of convergence.

The negotiations have been bogged down on a series of issues. One delegate cleared out that it was up to Kerry and Putin to create a breakthrough.

Randa Kassis, who heads up a Moscow-backed opposition, said “We’re waiting for a U.S.-Russian accord to solve the (key) issue once and for all. She added that they will continue with this process until they resolve it.

While the United States want Assad to step aside, Russia says only the Syrian people can decide his fate at the ballot box and has bristled at any talk of regime change.

Kerry is holding talks with Putin at the Kremlin on Thursday, in a meeting arranged after the Russian leader’s surprise announcement on March 14 that he was partially withdrawing his forces from Syria.

“The Secretary would like to now really hear where President Putin is in his thinking … on a political transition” in Syria, the official said as Kerry arrived in Moscow.

“Obviously what we are looking for, and what we have been looking for, is how we are going to transition Syria away from Assad’s leadership,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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