US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, are to meet Saturday in Switzerland for a fresh round of diplomatic talks on Syria.
Their already frosty relationship was further chilled earlier this month when Washington said it had broken off bilateral talks with Moscow on Syria, accusing the Kremlin of failing to do its part to end the bloodshed.
The discussions at the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in Lausanne is also expected to involve regional powers with stakes in Syria’s five-year war, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The focus of the meeting is a new ceasefire for Aleppo in northern Syria and humanitarian aid deliveries to the city’s civilians, the US State Department said this week.
The US, which suspended cooperation because of Russia’s continued bombing of Aleppo, emphasized that the meeting is taking place amid broader talks with several countries concerned about Syria.
Kerry “certainly wants to sit down in that format and have that discussion and continue to pursue a diplomatic approach,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in Washington.
“How the Russians react, what they come … willing to do or not is really up to them. The secretary’s expectations are that all attendees will come purposefully and genuinely interested in pursuing a cessation of hostilities,” Kirby said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry suggested that the meeting would have a broader focus to “consider possible additional steps for creating conditions for resolving the Syrian crisis.”
Russia has maintained that its airstrikes on Aleppo have targeted militant groups, including al-Qaeda-linked fighters, holding parts of the city.
However, the US and other Western powers are calling for such airstrikes to end because of civilian casualties.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published Friday by the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that his military, which is strongly aided by Russia, will conquer Aleppo.
He said that the victory will provide momentum to push militant groups northward toward Turkey, “where they came from.” (dpa/NAN)