US, Russia to discuss Syria’s future with UN
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) during the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, on November 30, 2015. AFP PhotoThe United States, Russia and the United Nations will hold three-way talks on the Syria crisis in Geneva on Dec. 11, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura stated on Dec. 9.
De Mistura told Reuters that the Dec. 11 Geneva talks that he initiated were part of “preparatory work,” but he declined to go into detail.
“It’s to talk about how to better organize the future Vienna meetings,” he said.
News of the meeting was first reported by Russia’s RIA news agency, citing Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.
“We will present our vision of the situation [in Syria], with emphasis on the need to intensify the fight against terrorism. It is a priority for us. We call for an increase in joint efforts in this area,” Gatilov said.
Neither U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry nor Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who will meet in Moscow next week, will attend the Geneva meeting.
Despite finding some common ground during the two earlier Vienna negotiations, which ended with a plan foreseeing Syria’s political transition in around two years, Russia and the U.S. differ on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s position in the country after the transition. While the U.S. and its allies say al-Assad must go, Russia is al-Assad’s biggest supporter.
The meetings in Vienna in October and November was also attended by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and led to backing for a plan for de Mistura to oversee talks between the Syrian government and opposition forces in Geneva in January.
The next “Vienna” meeting is in fact most likely to be in New York on Dec. 18, according to Kerry, while adding that the New York meeting hinges on efforts currently under way in Saudi Arabia to unite Syrian opposition groups.
De Mistura said the Geneva meeting was not intended to review the outcome of the effort to unite the Syrian opposition.
“It would be a little bit early if that was the case,” he said.