As Russian and US diplomats prepare for a meeting with the international mediator for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, Russian diplomats are calling for a balanced approach to settling the 21-month political crisis.
“The Russian side expects that the search for forms of international support for the settlement process of the acute domestic crisis in Syria…will take into account the ideas expressed in a speech by the President of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Syrian President Bashar Assad pledged in a televised speech on January 6 that he would halt military operations once fighting and foreign aid to the militant opposition stopped.
The Syrian leader also agreed to the release of 2,130 political prisoners in exchange for the release of 48 Iranians who had been held by Syrian rebels.
Russian and US officials, while supportive of ending the spiraling violence that has killed tens of thousands of Syrians, remain at odds over what part Assad should play in any negotiations.
Moscow, which has had talks with both members of the opposition as well as officials loyal to Assad, supports the Geneva communiqué, which calls for both sides to honor a ceasefire, start negotiations and form a transitional government. This approach is at variance with Washington’s position, which echoes that of the militant opposition, that Assad should be excluded from any future negotiations.
Yet Russian and American diplomats, despite or because of their differences, continue talking.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov will meet with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva on January 11th.
Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the BRICS nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, India’s national security advisor Shiva Shankar Menon said the conflict should “be resolved through negotiations.”
Only Syrians themselves can decide their future, Menon added.
China also weighed in, saying it “supports all efforts aimed at resolving the Syrian issue by political means.”