Russia, US in stage of talking first Syria step

Russia, US in stage of talking first Syria step

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Russia, US in stage of talking first Syria step

Rebels run across a street in the Ain Tarma neighborhood in Damascus. Diplomacy to solve the Syrian crisis has not yielded any result so far. REUTERS photo

Talks between U.S. and Russian officials on the Syrian crisis have been focused on the “sequence of events,” meaning that the discussions have focused on which steps should be taken first on the way to forming a transitional government. However, the talks are still not at the stage of offering possible candidates for the transitional government.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Lakhdar Brahimi, international mediator for Syria, all met at a trilateral meeting with last week in Geneva, in an attempt to end the nearly 22-month-old conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its opponents.

No apparent deal

Brahimi’s second meeting with Bogdanov and Burns ended without any apparent deal, diplomatic sources based in Ankara told the Hürriyet Daily News. Russia and the U.S. are not yet at the point of offering names as to who could replace al-Assad because the Russians have been insisting that, according to Geneva consensus, mutual consent is a must and there is currently no consent from al-Assad.

For their part, U.S. officials say there is now a Syrian opposition whose consent should be considered and they obviously don’t give consent to a transitional government including al-Assad. The opposition also maintains that a transition including al-Assad is not possible.

At the center of the discussions involving Syria’s future now is the question of which step should be taken first for a transitional government. Moscow says al-Assad’s exit from power must not be a precondition for a political solution in Syria.

Instead, it urges the Syrian opposition to make counter-proposals to those made by President al-Assad in a recent speech, in order to start a dialogue that could end the fighting.

“President al-Assad has forwarded initiatives aimed at inviting all in the opposition to dialogue. Yes, this initiative probably does not go far enough … They will probably not look serious to some. But these are offers, and if I were in the opposition’s place, I would present my counter-ideas about establishing dialogue,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Jan. 13.

A plan to end Syria’s civil war, agreed in Geneva in June during talks among global powers and the U.N., envisages the establishment of a transitional government but does not offer clear guidance about al-Assad’s future role.