US, Russia deal on Syria near, says Putin
REUTERS photoRussian President Vladimir Putin said Russia and the United States could be close to reaching an agreement on Syria despite differences about how best to resolve the conflict, Bloomberg news agency reported on Sept. 2.
In an interview two days before a G-20 meeting in China with U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders, Putin said ongoing talks between Moscow and Washington were very difficult but on the right track.
“In my view, we are gradually moving in the right direction,” Putin was quoted as saying in a transcript of the interview released by the Kremlin. “I do not exclude that in the near future we may agree on something and show this agreement to the world community. For now, it is too early to say, but it seems to me that we are proceeding, as I already said, in the right direction.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed to reach a breakthrough deal on military cooperation and a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria last week, but said teams from both sides would try to finalize details in Geneva.
The negotiations between senior U.S. and Russian officials, aimed at securing a broad cease-fire in Syria, are now expected to last into the weekend as fighting in the country intensifies.
There is also hope of agreeing to a weekly 48-hour truce in the divided northern city of Aleppo to allow aid deliveries and medical evacuations.
Meanwhile, buses carrying about 300 Syrians living in a besieged rebel-held suburb of the capital, Damascus, began leaving the area Sept. 2 following a deal struck with the government that grants amnesty to gunmen and restores state control.
An Associated Press reporter in Moadamiyeh saw security forces searching the luggage of dozens of men, women, and children before they boarded buses, heading out of the suburb to shelters in a government-controlled neighborhood nearby.
Moadamiyeh, which a U.N. report said was gassed with toxic sarin in 2013, has suffered a three-year government siege, leaving its estimated 28,000 residents with dwindling food and medical supplies.
The first part of the deal’s implementation evacuates about 300 people, including 62 gunmen who agreed to lay down their arms after taking advantage of a presidential amnesty, said the governor of rural Damascus province, Alaa Munir Ibrahim.
The Moadamiyeh deal came a week after the full evacuation of the nearby rebel-held suburb Daraya, which was widely criticized as a forced displacement.
The 300 people leaving Moadamiyeh are originally from Daraya, a number of whom had fled to or were stuck in Moadamiyeh after an extensive military offensive against the neighboring suburb that began earlier this year. On Syrian state TV, Ahmed Mounir, a government adviser, described the evacuation as a completion of the Daraya deal.