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Lavrov and Kerry Optimistic about Syria Talks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow, on March 24, 2016. AFP PHOTO

London-Optimism prevailed over the diplomatic meetings concerning the intra-Syrian talks.

U.N. Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura was hopeful that the Syrian peace talks will resume, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed on setting a date and had anticipated declaring a cooperation plan with Russia in August.

Concurrently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov believes that the agreements reached with Kerry could ensure that Syrian opposition will denounce ISIS and al-Nusra Front.

Speaking after meeting with Lavrov on the sidelines of a meeting of southeast Asian nations in Laos, Kerry said there had been progress in recent days on moving forward with the plan.

The proposal includes sharing intelligence between Washington and Moscow to coordinate air strikes against the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front and prevent the Syrian air force from targeting moderate opposition groups.

Kerry defended the proposal despite the fact that top American military and intelligence officials are skeptic over working with Russia. Of the skeptic officials are Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.

During a press conference at the Pentagon, Carter said that talks aim to see whether it is possible for the Russians to do the right thing in Syria.

“We had hoped that they would promote a political solution and transition to put an end to the civil war which is the beginning of all this violence in Syria,” he said.

However, “they’re a long way from doing that,” he added, noting, “but that’s what Secretary Kerry’s trying to promote.”

Carter expressed his enthusiasm about the developments but said they will have to wait to see if it is possible. He added that in Syria, the Russians “obviously have been backing the regime.”

Meanwhile, Kerry said after his meeting with Lavrov: “My hope is that somewhere in early August we would be in a position to stand up in front of you and tell you what we’re able to do with the hopes it can make a difference to lives of people in Syria and to the course of the war.”

Kerry and Lavrov determined the next stage of implementing the plan which also includes a series of meetings on the technical-level to address U.S military and intelligence concerns.

Kerry supporters at the State Department and White House say that the plan is the best chance to limit the fighting that led thousands of Syrians, including ISIS-trained fighters, to move to Europe. This also hindered humanitarian aid from reaching 10,000 more civilians.

Yet, Lavrov said in case an agreement has been reached and implemented, this will guarantee that Syrian opposition groups will leave areas occupied by Nusra, helping implement a truce.

“So far we’ve been seeing that our U.S. partners from the very beginning of this year were telling us, that they will be able to separate the opposition groups they are supporting from cells, but until now they have not been successful in doing so,” Lavrov said.

According to the Russian foreign minister, a new round of negotiations must begin and must be based on U.N. Security council principles.

He reminded that former international resolutions called that a new round of negotiations be held as soon as possible.

Lavrov considered the coming negotiations to be the first round of real talks. He also mentioned that up till now, the U.N. envoy has not been able to convene with all concerned parties at the negotiations table.

Meanwhile, a trilateral meeting was held in Geneva between U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Michael Ratney, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov and the U.N. Special Envoy.

“We reached some progress today, frankly, but we need some more details in order to work it out. In particular, from the American and Russian sides,” de Mistura told reporters.

The U.N. envoy said that the aim is to proceed with the third round of intra-Syrian talks towards the end of August for a possible solution.