Toner: US Not Opposed to Trilateral Syria Talks

Toner: US Not Opposed to Trilateral Syria Talks
Toner: US Not Opposed to Trilateral Syria Talks

A US State Department spokesman reiterated the stance that Washington is not opposed to Iran-Russia-Turkey talks on the resolution of Syria conflict, a new round of which is said to be held around mid-January in Astana, Kazakhstan, and includes negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition groups.

"We're not against any effort to coordinate more closely on the multiple conflicts taking place in Syria ... as long as it produces results," Mark Toner told reporters at a regular briefing on Tuesday, according to the website of the US State Department.

"We've also long said that in order to reach some kind of resolution to the conflict in Syria, all the stakeholders need to agree and need to talk to each other."

The US spokesman said although the US has not been invited to be at the table in Astana, "We're talking closely with and communicating frequently with both Russia and with Turkey".

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had discussed a peace plan for Syria with US Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone call.

Toner also said the US remains opposed to providing portable anti-aircraft weapons, or MANPADS, to militants it arms in Syrian and calls "moderate rebels".

"We would have a very deep concern about that type of weaponry getting into Syria," he said, in a positive message to Russia, which had warned a day earlier that an early December US decision to ease restrictions on arming militants threatens the safety of Russian warplanes and military personnel in Syria and Moscow viewed the decision as a "hostile act".

In mid-December, Moscow warned that a US decision to give MANPADS to militants fighting to bring down the Syrian government would pose a threat to the entire Middle East.

  Guarantors of Peace Deal

The nearly six-year-old conflict has become the worst calamity in the 21th century, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and triggering a major refugee crisis.

Tehran has been providing Syrian troops with advisory services since the early months of the conflict, while Russia has lent air power in the counter-terror push since September 2015.

Russian and Turkish foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu respectively, along with their Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, for the first time sat down for talks on the Syria crisis in Moscow on December 20. After the meeting, they issued the Moscow Declaration that called for nationwide ceasefire and cooperation against terrorist groups, and said the three are ready to act as guarantors of a possible peace deal between the Syrian government and opposition groups.

They also invited other countries with influence over the situation on the ground in Syria to contribute to efforts aimed at a settlement to the Syria conflict.

Another US State Department Spokesman John Kirby reacted to the meeting by saying the US "loves" to see the settlement of the Syrian crisis.

"If this troika arrangement can lead to those outcomes, that's all to the better. If it can lead to those outcomes today or tomorrow that would be terrific and we would love to see that."

  Gov't-Opposition Talks in Astana

International Syria Support Group is another framework for promoting Syria peace talks with 20 members, co-chaired by the US and Russia, whose last meeting was held in September.

But a question mark hangs over the future of ISSG, after Moscow and Washington broke off contact over Syria early October, with each side accusing the other of failing to honor its obligations under bilateral agreements on Syria.

The trilateral talks came after Russia and Turkey implemented a deal on the evacuation of militants, including members of Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front (recently rebranded to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), from a small pocket in eastern Aleppo, handing the Syrian government its biggest victory since the start of the conflict, which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said "conveyed the message to terrorists that they can't achieve their goal [of regime change]".

Some Syrian opposition groups and representatives of the Syrian government are to hold talks in Astana, in what Russian officials have described as "a supplement" to intermittent UN-brokered negotiations in Geneva.

Reuters reported Lavrov as telling Interfax news agency on Tuesday that the Syrian government was consulting with the opposition ahead of peace talks.


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