Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Officials Meet to Seek Basis for Syria Talks ; U.S., Russia and U.N. Try to Find Common Ground to Bring Factions to Table

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Officials Meet to Seek Basis for Syria Talks ; U.S., Russia and U.N. Try to Find Common Ground to Bring Factions to Table

Article excerpt

U.S., Russian and U.N. officials met in Geneva to discuss the possible timing of a conference, who would attend, and how to structure talks to give them the best chance of success.

Senior U.S., Russian and U.N. officials resumed talks in Geneva on Tuesday aimed at convening an international conference on Syria but with no hint of flexibility from the parties to the conflict or their foreign backers.

Wendy R. Sherman, the U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, and two Russian deputy foreign ministers, Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, met the U.N. special representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, for the second time in less than a month to try to agree on a formula for bringing Syria's warring parties to negotiations on a political settlement to end more than two years of civil war.

Their discussions were to include the possible timing of a conference, who would attend, and how to structure a conference to give it the best chance of success, Mr. Brahimi said before the talks started.

The situation in Syria has not improved since they last met in Geneva in early June with "relentless destruction, killing, more suffering, more injustice," Mr. Brahimi said, adding that he was doubtful it would be possible to hold a conference on Syria in July.

Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, began preliminary talks in May in a bid to halt the carnage that has claimed more than 90,000 lives.

The Group of 8 meeting in Northern Ireland last week underscored the divide between President Barack Obama and the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, who is President Bashar al-Assad's chief patron.

With Mr. Assad's forces -- backed by Iran and Lebanon's militant Shiite faction, Hezbollah -- gaining the upper hand in Syria, supporters of the rebels in the Friends of Syria group, including the United States, agreed over the weekend on the urgent need to provide them with small arms and other supplies. …

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