Syria dominates sideline discussions at UN General Assembly

Syria dominates sideline discussions at UN General Assembly

-NRN/Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry has moved to develop a new strategy for Syria, discussing the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov overnight on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

It comes as Russia appeared to seize the initiative in international efforts to end the conflict in Syria as France sent warplanes to bomb Islamic State targets.

Mr Kerry said that while it was vital to coordinate efforts against Islamic State militants this was not yet happening.

“I think we have concerns about how we are going to go forward,” Mr Kerry told reporters.

U.S. officials said Mr Kerry was working on a new political initiative in New York that would include Russia and key regional powers.

A senior State Department official told reporters: “It was a very thorough exchange of views on both the military and the political implications of Russia’s increased engagement in Syria.”

It follows Mr Kerry’s discussion of Syria with Iran’s foreign minister during a meeting at the United Nations on Saturday.

It was announced in Baghdad that Russian military officials were working with counterparts from Iran, Syria and Iraq on intelligence and security cooperation to counter Islamic State, which has captured large areas of both Syria and Iraq.

The move was seen in the region as potentially giving Moscow more sway in the Middle East.

It also comes as the United States, Britain and some other allies in recent days have softened demands that Assad immediately leave power, raising the possibility that he could stay during a transition.

U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Friday: “We do not think it is credible for Assad to remain for any length of time as the leader,” but added: “We appreciate there may be a political solution here where Assad is there for some period of time in some capacity while a transition takes place.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, however, told ARD television that the formation of a transitional Syrian government should be kept separate from discussions on the future of Assad.

Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin derided U.S. efforts to end the Syria war, which has driven a tide of refugees into neighboring states and Europe.

He said Moscow, which this month sent tanks and warplanes to a Russian military base in Syria, was itself trying to create a “coordinated framework” to resolve the conflict.

“We would welcome a common platform for collective action against the terrorists,” Mr Putin said in an interview on Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Mr Putin, who will meet U.S. President Barack Obama in New York later today, branded U.S. support for rebel forces in Syria as illegal and ineffective and said Damascus should be included in international efforts to fight Islamic State.

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Amy Whittaker
Amy Whittaker 1402 posts

Amy joined the NRN team in August 2011, before graduating from a B of Arts (Communication-Journalism)/B of Sports Studies from Charles Sturt University in December 2011.

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