‘No common position’ on Assad after meeting

Syrian men react as they stand amid the rubble following air strikes by Syrian regime forces on a marketplace in the rebel-held area of Douma. File photo

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Friday after attending a meeting in Vienna on Syria that he and his fellow participants had not reached consensus on the political fate of President Bashar al-Assad, Russian news agencies reported.

He was speaking after a meeting between the United States, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia which had been called to explore a political solution to the Syrian civil war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov — whose government backs Damascus — was meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry along with the foreign ministers of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who all support Syrian rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

The crunch talks are part of a diplomatic flurry aimed at stopping the conflict in Syria, which has cost more than 250,000 lives over the past four and a half years.

Washington, Riyadh and Ankara are looking to sound out Lavrov after the embattled Syrian strongman made a surprise visit to Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin this week.

On September 30 Russia launched a bombing campaign in Syria, which has shifted the dynamics of the brutal four-and-a-half year war — allowing Assad’s battle-weary forces to go on the offensive and overshadowing a U.S.-led coalition bombing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

The U.S. and its regional allies have decried Russia’s strikes, insisting Moscow is not focusing on ISIS as it claims, but other groups fighting the regime in Damascus, and that the Kremlin’s intervention will only prolong the bloodshed.

‘Full-scale talks’

Moscow backs talks between the government of Bashar al-Assad and the “full spectrum” of the Syrian opposition, Lavrov said on Friday.

“Our common position is that we need to boost efforts for the political process in the Syrian settlement,” he told journalists at a press conference in Vienna with his Jordanian counterpart. 

“This foresees the start of full-scale talks between representatives of the Syrian government and the full spectrum of the Syrian opposition, both domestic and external — with the support of outside players.”

Jordanian-Russian cooperation

In the same press conference, Lavro said Russia and Jordan have agreed to “coordinate” military operations in Syria.

“The armed forces of the two countries, the Russian and Jordanian forces, agreed to coordinate their actions, including those of their air forces over Syria,” Lavrov told reporters, adding that a “mechanism” had been set up in the Jordanian capital.
The scope of the two countries’ military cooperation was not immediately clear.

Jordan is a member of a U.S.-led coalition that is targeting jihadists from ISIS in neighbouring Syria.  

Standing next to Lavrov, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said both sides’ involvement in Syria meant there was a need for “close coordination.. particularly between the militaries on both sides.”

“I hope this mechanism will be effective in fighting all terrorism in Syria and beyond,” he told journalists.

Moscow has agreed limited coordination with Washington to avoid accidents as both their air forces are operating over Syria.

Source: AFP, agencies

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