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Syria talks to intensify at UN
September 26, 2015, 5:45 am

File photo of Iranian FM Javad Zarif, left, and Kerry, who had previously avoided discussing Syria during the nuclear talks. But US officials say Washington must engage Iran on the issue [Xinhua]

File photo of Iranian FM Javad Zarif, left, and Kerry, who had previously avoided discussing Syria during the nuclear talks. But US officials say Washington must engage Iran on the issue [Xinhua]


US diplomats say that Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to launch a new initiative to bring the Syrian Civil War to an end when he meets with Iranian and other officials during the UN General Assembly next week.

There has been growing impetus among world powers to end the conflict, which has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.

The recent media focus on Syrian refugees desperately fleeing the war in their country to reach European shores has added to the need for a multilateral solution.

During a Friday press briefing, Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters that Kerry would discuss Syria when he meets Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA.

“There are great political sensitivities in Iran about having these discussions, perhaps some limits, but it is important to engage to the extent we can.”

This would mark the first time that US and Iranian officials formally discuss the Syrian crisis; much of their previous engagements have centered on Tehran’s nuclear program.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Kerry could potentially push for a meeting of Iranian, Saudi Arabian and Russian officials over Syria.

In previous comments, Kerry indicated that having Syrian President Bashar Al Assad leave office need not happen immediately.

Washington’s diplomatic shift comes just a week after US and Russian military officials discussed the Syrian crisis for the first time in more than a year.

During a nearly hour-long phone call, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter last week discussed with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu the Syria crisis and Moscow’s recent deployment of military hardware and personnel to aid the government of Bashar Al Assad defeat such extremist groups as Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

“The secretary and the minister talked about areas where the United States and Russia’s perspectives overlap and areas of divergence,” a US Department of Defense statement said about the phone call.

The phone call marks a move away from Washington’s previous objections to Russia increasing its military presence in Syria and could signal the beginning of world power consensus on how to combat ISIL and other extremist groups, as well as stabilize the Middle East.

Russia has stressed in the past that Washington’s refusal to coordinate its airstrikes against purported ISIL positions in Syria with Damascus is a “mistake.” Western and Arab leaders have shied away from cooperating with Assad in the fight against the Islamic State to avoid being seen as legitimising his rule.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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