US suggests engaging Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran in Syria talks – newspaper

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During the Munich meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the American side suggested creating an additional mechanism to promote the Syrian settlement, the Moscow-based Kommersant newspaper writes in its Tuesday edition.

The newspaper quotes a Russian diplomatic source as saying that the case in point is a regional format that should expand the number of participants in the Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria.

“The Americans have proposed to include five participants into a parallel track: Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran,” the report says.

Russia and the US play a leading role in the Syrian settlement. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are the main sponsors of opponents of the regime, while Iran is its key ally.

“The Russian side has on the whole welcomed the proposal. Last year, Moscow itself initiated a regional negotiation format in addition to inter-Syrian dialogue, but back then the United States deemed it inexpedient. Now the US side has come up with the same idea,” Kommersant reports.

The newspaper links a change in Washington’s position to the results of the first round of Geneva-2.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described those results as “modest but encouraging.”

Moscow has hailed as positive the fact that the Syrian conflicting parties sat down at the negotiating table within the Geneva-2 framework and that none has “slammed the door” so far.

UN and Arab League special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi sounded more pessimistic. “Unfortunately, we have achieved nothing,” Brahimi told reporters in Munic. He voiced hope that the next round of Geneva-2, scheduled for February 10, would take place in a more constructive atmosphere.

Washington apparently doubts that, hence its latest offer.

So far, it’s not very clear whether it’s about a parallel conference involving regional players or a kind of permanent communication channel between them.

A Kommersant diplomatic source in a leading European country has described the US proposal as “useful.”

“Any means that can stop the bloodshed should be used,” the source said. He believes that the European Union – “Syria’s key humanitarian aid donor” – should also have a part in the future regional talks.

“It would be wrong to underestimate the positive role the Europeans could play in that process,” the diplomat said.

However, considering how hard convening Geneva-2 proved to be, organizing regional talks may also be a challenge.

Voice of Russia, Interfax

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