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Russia seeks multilateral Syria solution in Vienna
October 29, 2015, 6:15 pm

Entire cities have been destroyed by five years of intense warfare in Syria [Xinhua]

Entire cities have been destroyed by five years of intense warfare in Syria [Xinhua]

Diplomatic initiatives to reach a political solution to the Syrian civil war are set to intensify as the foreign ministers of a dozen countries meet in Vienna Friday for unprecedented talks with some regional powers playing a role for the first time.

No longer restricted to meetings between Russia and the US, this round of talks will include senior representatives from Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, as well as the UN’s special envoy to Syria and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

While the summit on Friday marks the first time Iran participates with its neighbors in an international meet on the crisis, anti-government rebels in Syria have accused its support of President Bashar Al-Assad as being a core part of the problem and reason the war is now entering its fifth year.

The summit also mark the first time rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran meet to discuss Syria. The two countries have backed opposing sides in the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts.

For its part, the US reiterated earlier this week that it is “prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict in Syria”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived in Vienna earlier today, says the Vienna Summit is “the most promising opportunity for a political opening we have seen.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says his country has always advocated a multi-lateral diplomatic push to resolve the Syrian crisis.

He had previously warned that unilateral actions in the Middle East were ill-considered and have contributed to instability and anarchy in the region.

When Al-Assad visited Moscow and met with President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, the Russian foreign ministry announced that it intended to make Egypt and Iran part of the ongoing efforts to end the Syrian civil war.

On Thursday, Egyptian media announced that Cairo was working with Moscow to bring together an opposition group that would eventually enter into dialogue with Al-Assad.

Al-Assad must be part of the political process, Moscow insists – a position that has angered the Saudis.

On Monday, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia met in Cairo to discuss the Syrian crisis.

While Saudi Arabia maintained its position that there is no role for Al-Assad in a future, post-conflict Syria, the Egyptians appear to have adopted Russia’s approach.

“Russia’s entrance, given its potential and capabilities, is something we see is going to have an effect on limiting terrorism in Syria and eradicating it,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, the UN estimates, and several million have been internally displaced or fled as refugees to neighboring countries.

The conflict has in part fueled the mass exodus of migrant refugees across the Mediterranean and into Europe in the past few months.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies