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US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a news conference after  a meeting on Syria in Geneva, Switzerland, on Aug. 26.
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a news conference after  a meeting on Syria in Geneva, Switzerland, on Aug. 26.

Kerry, Lavrov Make Progress to Reach Deal on Syria

The Syrian president’s future is not part of the current talks. Instead, discussions are focused on finding an effective and lasting solution to end the violence, which would open negotiations on a political transition in Syria

Kerry, Lavrov Make Progress to Reach Deal on Syria

Following nearly 10 hours of talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Kerry told reporters that they had “achieved clarity on the path forward” to re-implementing a ceasefire and improving humanitarian access in Syria, but have “narrow issues” to resolve.
In addition, both sides took further steps for improving military cooperation and intelligence sharing.
Kerry and Lavrov held talks in Geneva on Friday, August 26, to discuss plans to bring an end to the four-year-long conflict, DPA reported.
“We have completed the vast majority of technical discussions that were focused on making the cessation of hostilities real,” Kerry said.  He stressed that the only way to solve the conflict was through political agreement.
“We want to have something done that is effective and that works for the people of Syria, that makes the region more stable and secure, and that brings us to the table here in Geneva to find a political solution,” he said.
The US secretary said Russian and American diplomats were planning to meet in Geneva in the coming days to continue hashing out a deal that would hopefully lead to a sustained truce.
Still, the failure to reach a deal reflects the chasm that divides Washington and Moscow. While Russia is providing military support to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the US is supporting rebel groups seeking to bring Assad down. Turkey’s recent decision to intervene militarily in Syria also highlights the nature of the conflict as a proxy war between regional powers.
Russia has repeatedly called on the US to separate its “moderate” fighters from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front. The US, meanwhile, accuses Russia of purposefully targeting western-backed fighters.
Nonetheless, both leaders expressed optimism about the possibility of a truce.
“I think in the nearest time we will present the fruits of our joint efforts,” Lavrov said.
The talks have been complicated since initial meetings in July by new government attacks on opposition groups and a significant offensive in the southern part of the divided city of Aleppo led by opposition fighters intermingled with the Nusra Front.
In the days ahead, the technical teams, which include US and Russian military and intelligence experts, will try to figure out ways to separate the opposition groups, backed by the United States and Persian Gulf Arab countries, from the militants.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s future is not part of the current talks. Instead, discussions are focused on finding an effective and lasting solution to end the violence, which would open negotiations on a political transition in Syria.
Kerry believes the plan is the best chance to limit fighting that is driving thousands of Syrians into exile in Europe and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching tens of thousands more.
The talks came as opposition groups effectively surrendered the Damascus suburb of Daraya to the government after a four-year siege.
Opposition fighters are due to be given safe passage to the militant-held city of Idlib, while civilians are going to government shelters in Damascus, BBC reported.
The withdrawal of rebels just a few miles from Damascus is a boost for Assad, analysts say.
The Russian foreign minister said another besieged area was “interested in such an operation with mediation of the Russian Federation”. He did not name the area.

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