The United States and Russia are to chair a meeting in New York today, bringing together world powers with a stake in Syria’s civil war, officials told AFP. The 23-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG) was set up to push for a ceasefire and an eventual political resolution to the bloody five-year-old conflict.
A U.S. official confirmed a meeting was being set up, and diplomats said it would take place at 2 pm (1800 GMT) in a New York hotel.
Foreign ministers, already gathered in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, held an emergency meeting of the ISSG Tuesday after a week-old truce broke down. But they made little progress amid bitter recriminations between the ISSG co-chairs, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Washington blames Russia for carrying out a deadly air strike on a U.N. aid convoy in northern Syria after Bashar Assad’s military declared the ceasefire over.
Moscow denies any role in the attack and in turn accuses U.S. leaders of failing to ensure that the U.S.-backed opposition forces fighting Assad respected the truce.
Kerry and Lavrov sparred bitterly in the U.N. Security Council Wednesday, but ministers agree the U.S.-Russian effort is the only way available to impose a ceasefire.
Kerry has demanded that Russia order Assad to ground his air force in order to re-establish the credibility of the peace effort in the eyes of the suspicious opposition.
Lavrov has countered that the U.N. Security Council should consider adding some more of the anti-Assad rebel groups to its list of proscribed terrorist organizations.
Asked whether the ceasefire could be salvaged, Kerry said he would meet with Lavrov once again to try to narrow their differences. But he added: “It’s going to be very difficult. We’ll see what people are willing to do.”
If either side is able to come up with concrete measures to restore the truce, they could be endorsed by the ISSG at the meeting and the peace process would continue.
Failing that, Kerry has admitted that Syria’s future is “hanging by a thread.”
In yesterday’s talks however, Syria was the main topic. The meeting is the second between Lavrov and Kerry on the sidelines of the 71st UN General Assembly. On Tuesday, Lavrov and Kerry had a short bilateral discussion ahead of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting.
Lavrov-Kerry Deal on Syria German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confirmed to RIA Novosti on Wednesday that the next ISSG meeting would be held on Thursday. On Tuesday, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said after a meeting of the ISSG on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York that the group would reconvene on Friday. On September 9, Lavrov and Kerry presented a new plan to regulate the conflict in Syria, which included a new ceasefire that came into force on September 12.
On Wednesday, Lavrov stressed that the September 16 attacks by US-led coalition forces on Syrian army positions at a military airport near Deir ez-Zor were a flagrant violation of the ceasefire agreement.
Source: AP, AFP