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MOSCOW, October 6. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault will hold talks in Moscow on Thursday. The talks are expected to focus on the situation in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, and settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.
France’s proposal on Syria
The French Foreign Ministry said on October 5 that the Ayrault’s visit to Moscow will be held in the framework of France’s efforts aimed at adopting a UN Security Council resolution that paves a way for ceasefire in Aleppo and provides humanitarian access to people in need.
The French foreign minister first presented his proposals on settlement in Aleppo at the ministerial week at UN General Assembly session at the end of September. These proposals were later made into a draft resolution which is currently being considered by the UN Security Council. The proposals include establishing a system of collective monitoring of the situation in Syria, in particular in Aleppo, and condemning the use of chemical weapons which Paris blames on Damascus.
France’s proposals did not come to enjoy Russia’s support. "We studied the drat, it is rather one-sided. It includes elements that have absolutely nothing to do with the humanitarian topic, in particular, the passage on Syrian chemical weapons," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told TASS earlier. "One proposal deals with establishing some kind of monitoring over humanitarian obligations. Once again, why does one need to establish some kind of monitoring with unclear mandate and aims? There has already been a task group on humanitarian issues in Geneva for a long time which discusses precisely these matters - the situation with humanitarian access and so on," he added.
Between Moscow and Washington
The talks on Syria between Lavrov and Ayrault will take place against the backdrop of Washington’s announcement that it suspends contacts with Russia on this track. For over a year, Moscow and Washington have been playing a leading role in international mediation of the resolution of the Syrian conflict as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). However, US’ recent actions have put under question all earlier efforts made by the two countries, especially Russian-US agreements on ceasefire in Syria.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Ayrault will go to Washington right after his Moscow visit. Russian-US bilateral contacts have nevertheless continued - Lavrov and US State Secretary John Kerry discussed the situation in Syria on Wednesday in the telephone conversation initiated by the US side.
Ahead of the "Normandy Quartet"
The situation in Ukraine remains complicated as well. The Contact Group that holds regular meetings in Minsk has not made any progress on the political track yet. The withdrawal of forces in several districts that had been agreed in the framework of the Contact Group was disrupted. The ministerial meeting of "Normandy Quartet" (Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France) was last held in May in Berlin. Plans to hold talks in this format at the highest level on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China did not materialize.
A Russian diplomatic source told TASS earlier that the possibility of holding new contacts in the "Normandy format" is being discussed. According to the source, it is too early to say anything concrete but work on this matter is underway. Many things will depend on Kiev and its capability to fulfill its obligations, the source noted.
Sanctions not discussed
Talks usually touch upon the bilateral agenda, including the development of trade and economic relations. EU sanctions are negatively affecting cooperation in this sphere. Moscow repeatedly stated that it will not raise the issue of lifting sanctions first. Judging from the statement by the French Foreign Ministry, Ayrault does not plan to raise this issue as well.
However, Russia and France maintain traditionally extensive ties in the cultural and social-humanitarian spheres.