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Top Russian, US diplomats discuss situation around Syria, Iran

January 14, 2014, 12:12 UTC+3 World Service) ¶ 14/1 Tass ¶ ¶ Top Russian
Statements by Lavrov, Kerry as well as UN and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Lahdar Brahimi (also participating in the talks) on the issue differed considerably
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MOSCOW, January 14. /ITAR-TASS/. Two key issues - the participation of the Syrian opposition and Iran - remain unsettled several days before the start of the Geneva-2 international conference on Syria. Talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday failed to clarify the situation.

The Monday talks focused on the situation around Syria and Iran, the Kommersant daily writes, reminding the readers that the meeting of Lavrov and Kerry in Paris was the final one before the international conference on Syria scheduled for January 22.

On Monday, Sergei Lavrov met with Syrian National Coalition leader Ahmad al-Jarba, urging him to ensure the participation of the Coalition in the Geneva conference. However, according to Kommersant’s source in the Russian delegation, al-Jarba gave no reasonable answer citing a host of reasons for stalling the decision. At the same time, the opposition leader criticized not only the regime but also many representatives from the more and more splitting camp of President Bashar al-Assad’s adversaries, the source said. The source quoted him as asking the Russian foreign minister to put pressure on the Syrian authorities so that they promised in advance to make major concessions in Geneva, where the formation of a Syrian transition government would be discussed. The top Russian diplomat replied that Moscow’s task was to convince the Syrian authorities into coming to the negotiating table and not to predict the outcome of the negotiations.

As a result, it is still unclear whether the Syrian opposition will arrive in Geneva and if it does what its lineup will be. It was the US task to ensure the participation of oppositionists in the conference, but it followed from John Kerry’s speech at a news conference after the Monday talks that the issue was still to be worked upon.

Another problematic issue - Iran’s participation in the Geneva-2 talks, was not settled either, the newspaper says. Statements by Lavrov, Kerry as well as UN and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Lahdar Brahimi (also participating in the talks) on the issue differed considerably.

The source told the Kommersant daily that the issue of Iran’s participation “remained unresolved”. “The invitation to Tehran has not be sent as of yet for sure,” he added. “Iran’s repeat public statement on acceptance of the Geneva 1 results may be a way out of the situation. Then the Americans will have no more reasons left to say no,” the source added.

Russian president’s Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily that the Geneva-2 talks would take place even if not the most influential activists represented the Syrian opposition. Talks could continue for months, said Bogdanov, who is also Deputy Foreign Minister.

Apart from paving the way for the international conference on Syria, initiated by Russia and the US, the sides spent two-and-a-half hours reviewing practically the whole range of bilateral relations and outlined plans for the future, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.


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